U.K. Lawmaker and Jewish Leader Greville Janner Dies at 87

Child sex abuse allegations toward the end of his life blotted the record of one of the most outstanding leaders of the British Jewish community.

British politician Greville Janner arrives at a house after appearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, August 14, 2015.
British politician Greville Janner arrives at a house after appearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, August 14, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Lord Janner of Braunstone, one of the most prominent members of the British Jewish community, died on Saturday following a long illness, his family confirmed. He was 87.

Greville Janner QC, was a Labour Party member of parliament for 27 years, before retiring in 1997, and a member of the House of Lords until his death.

For decades he was a leader of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom, serving as chairman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews between 1978 and 1984 and as founding patron of the Holocaust Education Trust.

Janner's last years were clouded by allegations of child sex abuse, which resulted in his being suspended by the Labour Party. In April this year the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it would not be in the public interest to charge him due to his advanced senile dementia.

However, the prosecution acknowledged that he should have faced multiple child sex abuse charges in 1991 and again in 2007.

British politician Greville Janner, Sept. 10, 1996.Credit: AP

Jenner's family repeatedly denied that he was guilty of any wrongdoing.

“As a veteran politician, one makes enemies,” Janner told Haaretz in 2009, during one of the several investigations against him. “Being a Jewish community leader and advocate of Israel exposes me to baseless attacks on my honor. That’s what we’re seeing here.”

"The passing of Greville Janner marks the end of an era for the Jewish community," said Sir Mick Davis, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, after the announcement of Janner's death.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Janner family at this most difficult time."

Greville Janner was born in Cardiff, Wales, to Lithuanian Jewish parents and educated at St Paul's School in London. He subsequently studied law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society in 1952, and at Harvard Law School.

Before attending university, he spent 18 months working for the War Crimes Investigation Unit of the British Army in occupied Germany. While in Germany, he also worked with Holocaust survivors at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Janner became a barrister in 1954 and was appointed a QC in 1971. In 1970, he was elected to parliament as the Labour Party representative of the Leicester West constituency, which he served continually until 1997.

On his retirement, he was created a life peer (member of the House of Lords) as Baron Janner of Braunstone.

Janner's contribution to, and pre-eminence in, the British Jewish community was enormous. In addition to serving on the Board of Deputies, the main representative body of Britain's Jewish community, he was a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress until 2009 and of the Jewish Leadership Council until 2015. He was also president of the Commonwealth Jewish Council.

His dedication to Holocaust education lead to his cofounding in 1988 of the Holocaust Educational Trust, the body that successfully persuaded the British government to add teaching about the Holocaust to the national school curriculum. The Lord Janner Scholarship provides funding for 10 schools to take part in the Trust's educational programs annually.

Janner's wife Myra died in 1996. He is survived by his three children. His daughter, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, was appointed National Movement rabbi for the Movement for Reform Judaism in 2011. His other daughter, Marion Janner, was awarded the OBE in 2010 for services to mental health and his son Daniel is a barrister and QC.

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