LONDON — The chief rabbi of Britain has been made a peer for the first time, and he will take his place alongside the prelates of the Church of England in the House of Lords.
The new Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, who fled to England from Nazi Germany, was named in the queen's New Year's honors list in what some saw as more of a tribute to his conservative views than to Britain's 400,000 Jews.
When Jakobovits, 66, dons his scarlet, ermine-trimmed robe for a formal induction ceremony later this year, it will be a special honor. Only the senior bishops of the Anglican Church are automatically members of the unelected House of Lords, which consists mainly of hereditary peers.
Jakobovits rarely hesitates to speak out on moral, political and social issues. Generally, he's in agreement with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who made him a life peer.
Knighted in 1981
"It's been a tremendous surprise, a cause of great exhilaration," said Jakobovits, a former rabbi of New York's Fifth Avenue Synagogue, who was knighted in 1981.
As chief rabbi, he heads the Orthodox congregations in Britain and often speaks for the Jewish community, a small minority among Britain's 56 million people.
He opposes homosexuality and premarital sex, argues that only a moral revolution can contain AIDS and believes cheap labor is more dignified than welfare.
Jakobovits never speaks his native German in public. Nor can he bring himself to visit modern Germany and, as he says, "walk on the soil soaked with the blood of millions of Jews."
Walter Schwarz, a commentator on European affairs, wrote in the liberal Guardian newspaper that Jakobovits "makes the perfect Thatcherist peer."
"He supports the virtues of thrift, enterprise, work and personal morality, and he is against the all-nannying welfare state as well as all other forms of decadence."