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Monday, 9 January 2012

The Influence Of Mrs Thatcher’s First Jewish Friend


I repost here in full an article that has appeared in this week’s edition of The Jewish Chronicle Online.

According to journalist Charles Moore, whose biography of Baroness Thatcher will be released only after her death, the former PM considered Jewish values and Conservatism ‘a natural fit’

“Her support for Jewish causes derived, Charles.Moorehe says, from her interactions as MP for Finchley with Jewish people.

“He also suggests that, as a Methodist, she drew her "raw political and social lessons from the Bible", and emphasised the influence of Edith Muhlbauer, an Austrian Jewish teenager who, in 1938, stayed with the Roberts family in Grantham, after escaping Nazi persecution.

“’It had a significant impact,’ says Mr Moore. ’Edith was probably the first Jew she knew in the personal sense.’

Twenty years later, campaigning in Finchley, she infuriated local Conservatives by standing with the Liberals to fight a golf club's exclusion of Jews.

“Mr Moore says Baroness Thatcher believed that "the Jews were setting a good example. She liked the Jewish approach to looking out for your neighbours, being practical about money, working hard and being family-minded".

Lord.Jakobovits“Mr Moore says she was frequently irritated by Anglican leaders "lecturing her on state-ist socialist type solutions to everything. She found people like Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits more congenial in their way of thinking."

“He adds: "The mind-set in Europe now, including Britain, tends to see Israel as basically a problem. She saw it as a good thing - her instinct all the way through was 'thank God Israel is there and we must support' it, rather than 'oh, bloody Israel'."

* Edith, later Mrs Nokelby, was traced to San Paolo, Brazil in 1995. If she is still alive she would now be aged 91. The daughter of a Viennese banker, her contact with the Roberts family had started via a pen-pal friendship with Mrs Thatcher’s elder sister, Muriel.

According to a Jerusalem Post report in May 1995,  after Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938. Edith wrote to Muriel  in Grantham, England asking if she could give her a home. The Nazis were already rounding up the first of Vienna's 170,000 Jews and she was frightened. The Roberts agreed and 17-year-old Edith arrived with  with red handbags for Muriel and Margaret. Mrs Thatcher recalled her as “tall, beautiful, evidently from a well-to-do family."

* Margaret.ThatcherIn December 2002, the Sha’are Zedek Medical Centre, Jerusalem presented Baroness Thatcher with its Board of Governors’  Ot Hanagid award “in recognition of her staunch support and friendship for the State of Israel and the Jewish People”. The ceremony took place in private at the Embassy of Israel in London.

Conservative.Friends.Israel* It was during her premiership that the Conservative Friends of Israel was born, a move inspired largely by the former Manchester MP, the late Michael Fidler and Soviet Jewry campaigner, Sylvia Sheff. I cannot now recall in which capacity it was that  Mrs Sheff invariably made a birthday presentation to the-then P.M. during the annual Conservative Party Conference. Sylvia.Sheff

* Charles Moore is another Tory who is eminently ‘good for the Jews’. Some months ago, Moore wrote a charming and affectionate tribute to the late literary critic, John Gross, which showed an almost uncanny comprehension of what it means to be a Jewish English gentleman. I must offer new approval for his decision not to publish his Thatcher biography until after the former P.M.’s death as I consider the current debate about a possible state funeral cruel and inept.


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