Skip to content

UK’s 10 Downing Street welcomes observant Jewish family for first time in history

UK's 10 Downing Street welcomes observant Jewish family for first time in history Incoming British Prime Minister Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria arrive at Number 10 Downing Street, following the results of the election, in London, Britain, July 5, 2024. (Reuters Photo)
By Newsroom
Jul 8, 2024 12:16 PM

10 Downing Street, the official residence of the United Kingdom’s prime minister, will now be occupied by a Jewish family for the first time in history.

King Charles III officially inaugurated Keir Starmer, whose spouse is of Jewish descent, on Friday following the Labour Party’s resounding victory. While Sir Keir Starmer himself does not practice Judaism, he raises his children in the Jewish faith and has expressed his commitment to continue observing Shabbat dinners with his family while serving as the country’s leader.

Starmer has demonstrated staunch support for Israel and has committed to combat the increasing prevalence of antisemitism in the United Kingdom. Keir Starmer’s wife, Victoria Alexander Starmer, is a former solicitor now working in the National Health Service.

Her father comes from a Polish Jewish family settled in England before World War II, while her late mother converted to Judaism. Known as “Lady Vic” among friends, Victoria Starmer maintains a private life and avoids media attention despite her husband’s political career.

UK's 10 Downing Street welcomes observant Jewish family for first time in history
Keir & Victoria Alexander Starmer (Reuters Photo)

The Starmers prioritize their children’s privacy, keeping their names confidential, though their son Toby’s name has been disclosed. They observe Shabbat, with Friday night dinners being particularly meaningful, involving challah and kiddush.

The family attends the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St. Johns Wood, London, which emphasizes inclusivity, diversity, and social justice, welcoming non-Jewish partners.

Keir Starmer has expressed the importance of maintaining these traditions and faith practices for their children, influenced by his wife’s Jewish heritage.

He has been criticized for prioritizing family time on Friday evenings over political engagements, defending this choice as a commitment to religious observance.

Starmer incorporated combating antisemitism into his political agenda and has censured former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for his stances on the matter. Corbyn previously described Hezbollah and Hamas as “friends,” but then retracted his statement. He also supported a boycott of Israel while minimizing the increase in antisemitism during his tenure as party leader from 2015 to 2020.

Starmer temporarily suspended Corbyn from the Labour Party following Corbyn’s dismissal of a report that exposed mistreatment of Jewish members within the party. “I was extremely disappointed by Jeremy’s response to the report,” Starmer expressed. “It completely undermines all the effort I had invested in ensuring that we could act in accordance with that report.”

Starmer promised an unwavering stance against antisemitism within the party and expressed confidence in the possibility of recovering from previous setbacks.

Starmer’s Position on Israel

According to Starmer, some members of his wife’s family live in Israel, but thankfully, none of them suffered direct harm from Hamas strikes on Oct. 7. He expressed profound surprise and dismay at the increase in antisemitism in the U.K. following these events.

Starmer affirmed his support for Jewish communities in the U.K. and globally, as well as for Israel. He also criticized the BBC’s refusal to label Hamas as terrorists.

On Oct. 11, he reiterated that “Israel has the right to defend itself, and Hamas is responsible for acts of terrorism.”

Recently, he emphasized the importance of achieving a cease-fire and ensuring the safe release of captives as the primary objectives, while reaffirming his unwavering support for Israel.

“I will not attempt to coerce Israel into making concessions that are not in its interests,” he stated. “Israel has the right to live in peace and security.”

Starmer expressed opposition to Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank and disapproval of a boycott. His stance has made his family vulnerable to pro-Palestinian demonstrators. In April, prosecutors stated that Victoria Starmer felt intimidated and fearful during a demonstration that forced her to leave her own home.

Impact on Jewish vote

Pre-election polls indicated that 46% of U.K. Jews were projected to support the Labour Party, while 30% were expected to vote Conservative.

This marked a significant shift from previous elections, where Labour received just 11% of Jewish votes in 2019, largely due to controversies during Corbyn’s leadership.

UK's 10 Downing Street welcomes observant Jewish family for first time in history
Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, speaks to attendees of the Jewish Labour Movement one-day conference on January 14, 2024, in London, England (Photo by the Jewish Chronicle)

However, Labour still lost several seats to independent candidates advocating for Palestinian rights.

Historical context

Benjamin Disraeli, a Conservative Prime Minister during Queen Victoria’s reign, is considered as first time Jews lived in 10 Downing Street. He was the son of Jewish ancestors of Italian Sephardic origin.

Disraeli’s father, Isaac D’Israeli, left his synagogue after a prolonged disagreement and had his children baptized in the Church of England in 1817 when Disraeli was 12 years old.

UK's 10 Downing Street welcomes observant Jewish family for first time in history
Benjamin Disraeli (born December 21, 1804, London, England—died April 19, 1881, London) was a British statesman and novelist who was twice prime minister (1868, 1874–80) ( Photo by Adam Smith Ins.)

Due to their exclusion from Parliament until 1858, Disraeli’s conversion to Judaism enabled him to pursue a political career actively.

He was elected to Parliament in 1837 and served as Prime Minister from 1868 to 1874 and again from 1874 to 1880. Disraeli consistently supported and admired Jewish people and culture, despite facing ridicule and criticism in the press.

Last Updated:  Jul 8, 2024 12:16 PM