Jonathan Freedland

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Jonathan Saul Freedland (born February 25, 1967) is a British journalist, who writes a weekly column for The Guardian and a monthly piece for the Jewish Chronicle. Freedland has previously written for The Daily Mirror and as of September 2005, he writes each Thursday for the London Evening Standard. He is the son of Michael Freedland, the biographer and journalist.

Educated at University College School, a boys' independent school in Hampstead, London, and at Wadham College at the University of Oxford, he started his 'Fleet Street' career at the short-lived Sunday Correspondent. He also presents BBC Radio 4’s contemporary history series, The Long View. He was named 'Columnist of the Year' in the 2002 What the Papers Say awards.

In 1992 he was awarded the Laurence Stern fellowship, an internship opportunity for British journalists at the Washington Post.

Early life

In his youth, Freedland was a member of the 'socialist' Zionist youth movement Habonim Dror. In his genealogical book Jacob's Gift, he writes with great affection over several pages about his membership of the movement set up to 'persuade young Jews in Britain' to 'move to Israel' and join the kibbutz movement.[1] From the age of twelve, he attended meetings every Sunday and camps for a week in the winter and a fortnight in the summer. At the age of sixteen, he went on a summer tour to historic Palestine, where his mother had been born under the British mandate:

We stayed on a kibbutz, up before dawn to pick tomatoes. We saw the sights of Jerusalem, 'worked' with the poor in Ashkelon, danced all night in Tel Aviv. We hiked through the Negev and Judean deserts, following sandalled guides, their skin weathered by the sun, watching in awe as they magicked an edible fruit from a rocky outcrop, or scratched a few dry twigs into fire, ready to make nettle tea from the leaves we had just brused past. Jewish kids who knew nothing of the countryside back home were suddenly wading through wadis, ducking under waterfalls and sleeping under the stars.

He has since described this as a 'shameless exercise in Zionist indoctrination'.[1] But, at the time, he returned to London 'infatuated. I felt I had seen my future home. I put up an Israeli flag, directly above my bed, as if to guard my sleep. I began to read everything about the country'.[1] He also reports having a crush on the movement's Hebrew teacher, a '22-year-old emissary from the kibbutz movement, who had come to inspire us to make aliyah, to "ascend" to Israel'.[1] He also reports being enrolled for six months on a programme for future Zionist leaders in Palestine, funded by the Jewish Agency. Freedland's Habonim involvement continued until he was 21, transcending his university years, 'consumed with doctrines and ideals that had raged nearly a hundred years earlier', spending Sundays 'in the Jewish community centre, leading a group of local kids in a Habonim singsong'.[1]

In 1983, the Jewish Chronicle reported on a reunion for members of Habonim from Oxford:

The Oxford reunion – for chaverim who participated in the movement's summer scheme in Israel – was held at a farmhouse. Everyone present received a copy of Habonim's Israel camp diary, a reminder of summer scheme memories and mishaps, compiled by Jonny Mendelsohn and Jonny Freedland, with the help of madrichim, Dan Friedler and Bev Vincent.[2]

In 1986, the Jewish Chronicle reported that:

Close to 140 London members of Habonim Dror participated in the movement's summer camps, contributing greatly to their success. Maqurice Bernstein, Andrew Grossman, Charlie Presburg and Tali Zetuni led Habonim's camp in Israel, from which 120 chaverim from throughout Britain returned bronzed and fulfilled. The 15 year-olds popped on a ferry to Holland to take part in what mazkir Jonathan Gewirtz described as 'a powerful and thought provoking seminar on the Holocaust'. The seminar was supplemented by a four day hike, boating and cycling in the Dutch countryside and a visit to Amsterdam. Colin Picker, Liane Brookes, Jonny Mendelsohn, Jonny Friedland, Caroline Jacobs, Hilary Levy and Suzanne Freed were in charge of the tour.[3]

Wielding great influence on British Jewry

In 2008, The Jeruselem Chronicle declared 'the top spots' on their second annual list of those who 'wield the greatest influence on British Jewry'. Jonathan Freedland is listed at number 18[4]. The criteria for being listed is described as 'those with a vision for Jewish life in this country and who did their utmost to bring it about using either money; persuasion; religion; culture; political or social leadership; or simply inspiring through word and deed'. In order for someone to be listed in the top 20, it was generally necessary to demonstrate influence in more than one of the spheres[5].

In the article Freedland is described as a...

'supporter of Israel in the columns of The Guardian and a regular JC contributor. The early career of Oxford-educated Mr Freedland, 41, included reporting stints on the Washington Post and BBC News. He was The Guardian’s Washington correspondent from 1993-97 and his radio work includes the Radio 4 contemporary history series, The Long View. Among his literary output is Jacob’s Gift, a memoir telling the stories of three generations of his family and exploring wider issues of identity and belonging. Michael Freedland, Freedland’s father, 'forged a different journalistic path as a celebrity biographer'.

Others included in the list were Lord Levy (number 9), Ron Prosor (number 10), Daniel Finkelstein (number 11), John Mann (number 17), Trevor Chinn (number 14), Julia Neuberger (number 19), Lord Janner (number 20), Prime Minister Gordon Brown (number 29) & Poju Zabludowicz (number 30)[6].


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Jonathan Freedland, Jacob's Gift (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2005), p. 16).
  2. 'Back together at Habonim', Jewish Chronicle, 25 November 1983, p. 28.
  3. 'Wishing you were here', Jewish Chronicle, 12 September 1986, p. 18.
  4. The Jewish Chronicle JC Power 100: Sacks stays on top, as new names emerge. 9th May 2008. Accessed 16th August 2008
  5. The Jewish Chronicle How we made our selection 9th May 2008. Accessed 16th August 2008
  6. The Jewish Chronicle JC Power 100: Sacks stays on top, as new names emerge. 9th May 2008. Accessed 16th August 2008