Jewish Communities in Commonwealth Mourn Passing of Queen Elizabeth II
by Yaakov Ort and Mendel Super – chabad.org
From the northern reaches of the United Kingdom to the east and west coasts of Canada to the southern tip of New Zealand, Jewish communities throughout the Commonwealth were in a state of mourning following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8. And as Shabbat approached in Jewish communities around the world, many Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis throughout the British Commonwealth were busy preparing their Shabbat sermons to expound on the Torah’s concept of malchut—nobility, humility and sovereignty, which are meant to be modeled by an earthly monarch—qualities they say Queen Elizabeth exemplified in many ways.
“Today, a void has been created in the heart of every one of us, as the nation and the world suffered a huge loss,” said Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Hampstead Garden Suburb. “A true example of a royal queen in every way, she was an example of commitment, sacrifice, devotion and service. She was an inspiration for us to follow.”
“We all looked up to the dignity, the majesty and the nobility of the queen,” said Rabbi Nissan Dubov, director of Chabad of South London. “We reflect on the fact that the queen prayed every day and was very much a rock of calm,” he continued. “Her tzniut [‘modesty’] exemplified what is written in Psalms (45:14), ‘The glory of a king’s daughter is within.’ ”
“The entire community is in a state of mourning,” he told Chabad.org.
Senior British Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Shmuel Lew recalled the queen’s sensitivity towards the late Rabbi Nachman Sudak, regional director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the United Kingdom, when instead of offering him the traditional handshake upon awarding the rabbi with the Order of the British Empire in 2001, for his decades of service to the community, the queen bowed. It was a gesture of understanding that she later demonstrated when she awarded Rabbi Arye Sufrin, director of the Lubavitch Centre in Essex, England, in 2009, with a Member of the British Empire for his decades of work counseling within both the Jewish and broader community.
An Impact Far and Wide
Exemplifying the queen’s impact on Jewish schoolchildren, Lew recalled a time decades ago when Tziporah Sufrin, a teacher at the school he heads, visited New York. At a private audience, the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—asked her if she had visited the local schools in New York. When she replied in the affirmative, the Rebbe asked her what differences she noticed between British schools and New York schools. “She replied that the children in the U.S. are more familiar with teachers; in England, they show greater derech eretz [‘respect’]. The Rebbe said that that is because there’s malchus [‘monarchy’] in England,” recalled Lew.
When the queen paid her last visit to Australia in 2011, many members of the Jewish community turned out at Melbourne’s Federation Square so they could say the blessing that is recited upon seeing a monarch, recalled Chabad.org writer Mendel Super. A young yeshivah student at the time, Super said he was feet away from the queen as she boarded her royal tram, and he waved to her, with the queen graciously returning the wave.
From as far as the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory, Rabbi Berel Pewzner, a Chabad emissary and rabbi of the Jewish Community of the Cayman Islands, wrote that the Cayman Jewish community is saddened by her passing. “Her Majesty was beloved by the people of the Cayman Islands,” Pewzner said, recalling that like many congregations in the United Kingdom, they held a special kiddush honoring her 70th Jubilee earlier this year.
“Quite a number of people in our community got to meet the queen on her visits to Cayman,” says Pewzner, adding that Chabad will hold a memorial service for the queen this Shabbat.
On learning of her passing, the prayer for the welfare of the queen, which was written by the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom and read for more than 70 years in many congregations, was immediately changed to a prayer for the welfare of the new king.
Prince Charles immediately became King Charles III on his mother’s passing. The new king has enjoyed excellent relations with the Jewish community throughout his lifetime and has recalled being an exact contemporary and longstanding personal friend of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, who he has said was a mentor who had influenced him deeply over the years.
“We who were lucky enough to witness a generation who lived a life enriched by such purposeful commitment and sacrifice are endowed with the responsibility to follow in their footsteps. May we have the courage to continue her legacy,” said Sudak.