Benjamin D’Israeli served twice as Prime Minister of England in 1868 and again in 1874, appointed by Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, who greatly admired him and who remained his faithful friend until his death on April 19, 1881.
D’Israeli was born to a Sephardic Jewish family whose origins were in Italy. His mother, Miriam Basevi, was the daughter of prominent Jews and his father Isaac D’Israeli had been a member of London’s famed Bevis Marks Synagogue,
But following several disputes with the synagogue leaders, his father left and converted to the Church of England.
Benjamin was 12-years-old when he and his sister Sarah and his brother Naphtali were baptized as Anglicans.
Benjamin became a successful lawyer and politician, was an outstanding orator with a silver tongue, and the author of several widely-read novels. A book of his quotations, of which there were hundreds, contains one in particular which I have always treasured.
In 1835, Daniel O’Connell, the Irish Roman Catholic leader, attacked D’Israeli in a speech in the House of Commons and referred to D’Israeli’s Jewish ancestry.
D’Israeli stood up and replied:
“Yes, I am a Jew, and while the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, my ancestors were priests in the temple of Solomon”.
In spite of his baptism into the Christian church as a young child, Benjamin D’Israeli never renounced his Jewish birth and was always proud of what the Jews had done.
In his first term as Prime Minister, in 1870 he remarked “The Lord deals with the nations as the nations deal with the Jews”.
Aside from his political quotations, D’Israeli had a unique sense of humor. “Every woman should marry….but not every man”.
Another favorite quotation, date not known, was remarked by the Director and Screen-writer, Billy Wilder, a Jew born in Austria:
“On the sixth day, God turned to the angel Gabriel and said, ‘On this day I shall create a magic land; it shall be called Israel. It will stand as holy. Its magnificence will be known all over the world.
I will choose to send to this land a special people of goodness, intelligence and conviction so the land shall prosper. I shall call these inhabitants Jews’”.
The angel Gabriel replied: “Pardon me, Lord, but don’t You think You are being too generous to these Jews?”.
“Naturally”, answered God. But wait until you see the neighbors I am giving them”.
Billy Wilder was a prophet!