8 April 2013 will be remembered for two pieces of sad news; that of the passing of Lady Thatcher, the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the passing of Sam Marks z”l, the life President of the Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation.
The news of the death of Lady Thatcher at the age of 87 has generated a wide range of reactions across the world. Whilst widely admired at home and across the world, nevertheless, Lady Thatcher had polarised public opinion at home and had made many enemies on the left of the political spectrum. She is widely credited with turning the United Kingdom from being the ‘sick man of Europe’ into a thriving and world leading economy, in the process changing the social and political structure of the country for ever. She targeted the trade unions, the inefficient industries that believed that it was their right to be protected from real world economics by government handouts, she encouraged individuals taking responsibility for themselves and their families. Whether you loved her or loathed her, you could not ignore her.
So what was her posture towards the Jews and Israel? For many years she was the MP for the Finchley constituency in north London which is known to have a large middle class Jewish presence. It is easy to overestimate the influence of this on her politics. The economic and social course she set for her country is exactly the one within which Jews have thrived by demonstrating personal endeavour, hard work and enterprise on a level playing field. Her legacy is influencing the present day Israeli society where high tech industry has thrived and has become world class when the restricting shackles of government intervention was removed. She was a staunch supporter of Israel and did not hesitate to voice her admiration for the achievements of this young democracy. However, she was also forthright when she did not agree with the policies of the then Begin government but throughout her time in office she remained a true friend of Israel as reflected by the warm tributes paid to her by PM Benjamin Netanyahu and by President Shimon Peres.
Sam Marks z”l, on the other hand, did not divide opinion amongst the Jewish Community. He was a universally loved and much admired leader of our community whose passing leaves a void that cannot be filled. Sam, together with his dear wife Hilda, dedicated himself to the well being of the Jewish community in the UK and in Israel, supporting good causes with generosity, compassion and humility. His legacy will continue to benefit the lives of many, both here and in Israel, for many years to come. We send our condolences to Hilda, their son David and daughter Rochelle, grandchildren, great grandchildren and the whole family circle.
© Mahir Ozdamar