Roderick Balfour sends letter to Limmud conference expressing pride in great-great-uncle’s famous letter supporting Jewish statehood.
“My family is very proud of the importance to Jewish people everywhere of this initiative by the British government of the day,” he wrote. “The relevance to you all here today is that the imperative for it stemmed from the appalling Russian pogroms at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Thus, and this is what we are most proud of, the declaration was first and foremost a humanitarian act trying to repatriate a talented but much-persecuted people to the land of the original Judaic roots.”
On November 2, 1917, the UK foreign secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, sent a letter to the leader of the British Jewish community, Lord Walter Rothschild, in which he stated his government’s support for a Jewish state in the area then known as Palestine.
“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object,” he wrote, “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
Roderick Balfour, the 5th earl of Balfour, is the great-grandson of Arthur’s brother Gerald William Balfour. Arthur never married and died childless.