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Bennett closes Glasgow trip with emotional visit with British chief rabbi

Pair of leaders said to discuss need for Jewish unity, with UK rabbi commending PM’s presence at climate confab as a ‘sanctification of God’s name’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, November 2, 2021 (Courtesy)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, November 2, 2021 (Courtesy)

GLASGOW, Scotland — After two intense days of meetings with world leaders in Glasgow that were described as a “diplomatic tsunami,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had a very different sort of get-together in his Edinburgh hotel.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, spiritual leader of United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, stopped in to sit with Bennett on Tuesday evening shortly before the premier took off for Israel.

Attendees of the meeting said there was an instant bond between the two. According to an official who was present, Mirvis gave Bennett a yasher koach — a Hebrew expression used to acknowledge a brave or virtuous act — for his efforts to build Jewish unity.

Bennett’s presence at the COP26 UN climate summit was a kiddush Hashem, or a sanctification of God’s name, Mirvis continued, adding that it was very much what the world needs right now.

The conversation turned to polarization in the world and within the Jewish people, said the source, both within Israel and between Israeli and Diaspora Jewish communities.

“We are Jews. We are one!” Bennett exclaimed, adding, “I view Israel as responsible for every Jew in the world, period. When one Jew in the world hurts, I hurt.”

The two men then discussed Bennett’s experience at the conference and the interest shown by world leaders in learning from Israel. They agreed that Jewish values dictate that Jewish people and communities should work for the betterment of the world.

They ended by discussing means of strengthening the bonds between Israel and British Jews.

The official said that it was apparent that the meeting was a poignant one for both Mirvis and Bennett.

Both men tweeted about the meeting afterward.

“My final meeting in the UK was of special significance. Tonight, I met with @ChiefRabbi Ephraim Mirvis – a man of great depth and unique insight,” Bennett wrote. “British Jewry is a shining example of how to turn Jewish values into actions which strengthen both the community and wider society.”

Earlier in the day, Mirvis also attended the COP26 conference, visiting the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ eco-synagogue booth.

On Monday, Mirvis spoke at a faith leaders panel alongside the bishop of Reading, the Right Rev Olivia Graham, and Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, chief imam of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society.

“I personally lament the fact that, with regard to COP26, the United Nations has not chosen faith to be one of the key streams,” he said. “Within the program there isn’t a day devoted to faith and its input. Faith leaders coming here have needed to scramble for attention, for opportunities to participate.”

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