'One of the greatest prime ministers of last century'

NATIONAL and local Jewish leaders were quick to pay tribute to Baroness Thatcher.

Manchester King David Schools' governors' chairman Joshua Rowe praised her as a "most outstanding, amazing and dignified lady".

Mr Rowe, who used to be chairman of UJIA, met her on a number of occasions.

He told the Jewish Telegraph: "When you go to dinner parties when the prime minister is due to be there, you expect them to arrive last.

"Baroness Thatcher was always ready, waiting to greet you.

"She had such personal humility and when you got close to her, you saw greatness."

Mr Rowe, who is also a trustee of the Chief Rabbi's Office and now UJIA president, said that Baroness Thatcher had an immense amount of warmth and respect for Israel and Jews.

He explained: "She really admired the Jewish community and our trait of looking after each other and giving more than taking.

"She admired those qualities.

"History will reward her with the accolade of being one of the greatest prime ministers of the last century - she really transformed this country."

Mr Rowe also praised Baroness Thatcher for introducing league tables for schools, together with Keith Joseph, her Jewish Secretary of State for Education.

"Schools used to rely on reputations, until she and Keith Joseph introduced league tables," he said.

"It forced schools to really perform better."

Mancunian Sylvia Sheff, who led the 35 Group - the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry - said Baroness Thatcher was extremely compassionate about the plight of the Soviet Union Jews.

She told the Jewish Telegraph: "I first met her at a Conservative party conference and I went up to her and asked her if she had the time to speak with me about Soviet Jewry.

"Our relationship developed from there.

"I met her seven times on a private basis, always at 10 Downing Street.

Mrs Sheff said that she used to bring Baroness Thatcher case notes on the refusniks, especially those who were in dire need.

"She was a staunch supporter of the refusniks," Mrs Sheff explained.

"She always listened attentively to my briefs and always told her private secretary to note down what we had discussed.

"Mrs Thatcher wanted to help these Soviet Jewish families.

"She had a lot of integrity and did every thing she could to help.

"We corresponded for a long time."

Former Bury South MP David Sumberg described Baroness Thatcher as "formidable".

Mr Sumberg, who served his constituency for 14 years, told the Jewish Telegraph: "When I entered Parliament in 1983, she had just won the General Election by a huge swing. I was in awe of her, being a relatively young man - she was a bit frightening.

"Baroness Thatcher liked an argument. She would respect you for expressing your opinion, although she liked to win the debate."

But he also said she had a kind streak and remembered Baroness Thatcher sending a congratulatory message to his son Jonathan for his barmitzvah.

Mr Sumberg added that she was supportive of Israel.

"She particularly understood Israel's fight against terrorism.

"It struck a chord with her because of the IRA, although I did think she was wrong when she condemned Israel for its attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981."

Zionist Federation co-president Professor Eric Moonman, who served as a Labour MP from 1966 to 1970 and from 1974 until 1979, described Baroness Thatcher as an "amazing and remarkable politician".

He said: "Those who are cynical or critical about what she did really do not understand the role of prime ministers.

"I always found her sympathetic and understanding of Jewish interests. I once led a delegation on behalf of the Board of Deputies to meet with her.

"She didn't need any briefing - she knew all the questions and certainly knew all the answers on matters affecting the Jewish community."

Stuart Polak, director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, said: "Her staunch defence of freedom and liberty perhaps explains her genuine admiration of Israel as the only democracy in an autocratic region - something that she felt should be fought for and protected.

"This was clearly reflected in her commitment to the CFI.

"She served as honorary president of our North London Area Council throughout her time as MP for Finchley and even as prime minister.

"As an active member of the council, regularly attending CFI events, she is remembered fondly by those who worked with her."

Former Glasgow Jewish Representative Council president Walter Sneader said: "Her friendship towards the Jewish people and Israel was manifest.

"We came away from the meeting feeling that whatever our views were on her domestic policies, her grasp of the international situation was impressive."

Israel's ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, said: "For her strong support for Israel, for the way in which she epitomised the values of freedom and democracy that our two countries hold so dear, and in memory of her remarkable life, we mourn with the British people."

Lubavitch Scotland's Rabbi Chaim Jacobs said Baroness Thatcher was a close friend and supporter of Lubavitch in London and Glasgow.

© 2013 Jewish Telegraph