Brown takes on JNF role
by Daniella Peled 

JNF UK, one of Anglo-Jewry’s leading charities, has secured Gordon Brown as its latest patron, the JC can reveal.

The Prime Minister accepted the role following an invitation from JNF UK president Gail Seal, who wrote conveying her good wishes the day after he took office.

In a letter to Mrs Seal, the PM responded that “your congratulations and good wishes are very much appreciated” and that he was “delighted to accept your offer to become a patron of JNF UK”.

A spokesman for Mr Brown told the JC: “The Prime Minister supports a number of charities and has agreed to become a patron of the Jewish National Fund UK in order to encourage their work to promote charitable projects for everyone who lives in Israel.”

Mrs Seal said she was “very proud that Gordon Brown has agreed to become patron of JNF UK. This will enhance what is already a close relationship with the UK Jewish community, and help us progress in our tremendously successful campaign to bring new communities to the Negev.”

The PM joins other JNF UK patrons including Tony Blair, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, as well as Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, who is said to be a close friend of Mr Brown.

JNF UK raises £15 million a year, intended to promote “exclusively charitable projects in Israel”. Its fundraising events range from London-Israel plane rallies to the Green Sunday “telethon”.

The charity has faced its share of controversy. Currently, it risks being dragged into a storm surrounding a proposed Israeli law which would restrict the sale of JNF-owned land to non-Jews. The bill passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset last week.

In October 2005, Keren Kayemeth L’Yisrael-JNF parted ways from JNF UK in an acrimonious split which led to a High Court battle. The two sides have since been conducting a process of mediation to prevent a return to court.

In March, the Charity Commission dismissed allegations of irregularities at JNF UK’s head office after a former patron, David Lewis, pressed it to investigate a 100-page dossier of concerns.

Founded in 1901, the JNF (known as KKL in Israel) was the tool for buying up land in pre-state Israel. Current projects focus on developing the Galil and Negev regions.

Mr Brown has long been known for his support of Israel.

In a speech to Labour Friends of Israel in April, he recounted how his late father, a Church of Scotland minister, had taught him about “the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, about the enormous suffering and loss during the Holocaust, as well as the extraordinary struggle he described to me of people to create this magnificent homeland”.