Sidney L. Shipton

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Sidney Shipton (1929-2008) "helped to change the face of interfaith dialogue in the UK from a predominantly Christian-Jewish affair to involve Islam. As co-ordinator of the Three Faiths Forum since its inception in 1997, he urged increased understanding of the Muslim faith long before concerns of Islamophobia were widespread.

"The esteem he enjoyed in the Muslim community as a result of this work often provoked surprise given that he was a bastion of the Zionist Establishment who had served in top positions in the Zionist Federation and other pro-Israel organisations.

"Sidney Lawrence Shipton was born in London in 1929. He emerged as a natural leader in his twenties, after becoming involved in the Federation of Zionist Youth as a law student in London. Passionately ideological, he called for action instead of just words, declaring that members should not simply talk about the new Jewish state, but live there for a stint - a practice he helped to establish as the norm across Zionist youth movements.

"While working as a lawyer after graduating, he began to make his impact on the adult Zionist Establishment. The Zionist Federation, the umbrella organisation for many small groups, needed new blood. Its leadership was so used to aiding the struggle to establish the Jewish state that it was having difficulty changing tack and finding ways of helping a country in its infancy. Shipton became secretary in 1961, treasurer in 1964 and chairman in 1971. The next year he gave up his career in law to become full-time general secretary.

"In 1981 he moved to direct the UK arm of the Jewish National Fund, the Zionist charity set up in 1901 to buy land for Jewish farmers in Ottoman Palestine, which went on to become the Israeli equivalent of the National Trust. Shipton resigned from this position in 1987, and set up the World Movement for United Israel...

"Over the years, he filled his so-called free time with other official roles. He was an activist in the Liberal Party, twice elected councillor for Hendon and offered opportunities to stand for Parliament - which he turned down in order to be free for his Zionist work.

"He was a member of the Council of the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust, the Executive of United Religions Initiative, and the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House). He held executive positions in the local United Nations Association, the London Civic Forum, Business Against Drugs, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Jewish fraternal organisation B'nai Brith." [1]

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  1. Sidney Shipton, The Times, accessed March 3, 2009.