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Installation of the Chief Rabbi

1st September 2013

The Prince of Wales and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

The Prince of Wales and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

The Prince of Wales has been praised for the "passion" he holds for inter-faith understanding as he became the first member of the royal family to attend the installation of the Chief Rabbi.

His Royal Highness, who wore his own navy blue velvet Kippah, or skull cap - decorated with The Prince of Wales' feathers, was applauded by guests as he attended the formal installation of the new Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, at St John's Wood Synagogue in north London.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis, addressing The Prince, congratulated him on the birth of his first grandchild Prince George and said his presence as guest of honour at the ceremony was an honour for the "entire" Jewish community.

"Your Royal Highness, your presence today is a great honour, not just an honour for me personally but an honour for our entire community," he said.

"It is a reflection of the passion you have to work with the faith communities in this country.

"It is an expression of your desire to bring unity and to promote all the good things that we stand for. Your input and your inspiration go a long way."

Lord Sacks, who stepped down after 22 years as Chief Rabbi, a post widely viewed as a figurehead for the British Jewish community, formally inducted his successor into the post and gave an address to the ceremony.

Addressing His Royal Highness, he said the presence of The Prince of Wales at the installation testified to the "generosity of spirit and the greatness of heart you have shown to all the faiths" while remaining "steadfast and exemplary in your own".

The remarks by Chief Rabbi Mirvis, who becomes the 11th Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the UK and the Commonwealth, were made at the start of a sermon in which he warned against neglecting the poor and weak in British society and spoke of his pride in Jewish charitable giving.

"I am privileged to become the spiritual head of a most wonderful and remarkable community which fully appreciates the value of giving, which is there not only for members of our community but there for those who require assistance throughout the country and so we need to be committed to one and all," he said.

Around around 1,400 guests was present for the ceremony, including Labour leader Ed Miliband.

In his sermon, Chief Rabbi Mirvis repeated concerns about the rise of anti-semitism and spoke of his hope of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours.

"As I stand before you today, hostility is rife in Syria and we are witnessing some terrible atrocities and also at this time Israel and the Palestinians are set on holding negotiations with an eye towards establishing a true and lasting peace," he said.

"In years to come I would love people to look back on this day and associate it with the time when finally we were on the path to beating swords into ploughshares in Israel and throughout the Middle East.

"May Almighty God bless our leaders with the wisdom to make wise and responsible decisions through these days, weeks and months of challenge."

Chief Rabbi Mirvis praised the work of successive governments in tackling anti-semitism.

"Sadly, in our post-Holocaust era there are still those who seek our harm from without," he said.

He said he was "proud" of the many communal organisations seeking to combat the spread of anti-semitism.

"Most of all, I am proud of the fact that in our country, the fight against anti-semitism is being led by successive governments and Parliament and that is because it is correctly recognised that a threat against the Jews is a threat against our society."

Senior figures from the Church of England were present at the ceremony including the Bishop of Lambeth, the Rt Rev Nigel Stock, representing the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Very Rev Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster.

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales,  also attended the ceremony.