Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, died at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke Monday. Thatcher represented the Conservative Party and in 1987 famously said, “There is no such thing as society.” The “Iron Lady,” as she was nicknamed, also forged close relations with Britain’s Jews.
In 1959, when Thatcher was a rising politician, she sided with local liberals in a fight against a golf club that was excluding Jewish members. Even earlier, during the Second World War, Thatcher’s family hosted an Austrian-Jewish teenager hiding in the UK from Nazi persecution.
As UK Prime Minister from 1975-90, Thatcher assembled many Jewish cabinet members such as Malcolm Rifkind, Keith Joseph, Leon Brittan, and Nigel Lawson. “She was completely untouched by anti-Semitism. She took individuals on their own merits and recognized ability where she found it,” Lawson told London’s Jewish Chronicle.
“Baroness Thatcher was a giant who had a transformative impact on Britain. I first got to know her early on in my life when she was the local MP. She was loved and admired by many in the Jewish community who will miss her deeply. Few people in my lifetime have left such a personal imprint on British life,” said Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth Lord Jonathan Sacks.
Thatcher’s relationship with the Israeli government during her term was more strained. She described Menachem Begin, prime minister of Israel for two periods in the 1980s, as the “most difficult” man she had to work with.