Miliband vs. Miliband Feud Ends as One British Jewish Brother Comes to New York

David Miliband Leaves Ed Behind To Run for Prime Minister

All in the Family: David Miliband is quitting politics and moving to New York, leaving his brother, Ed, to run for prime minister.
getty images
All in the Family: David Miliband is quitting politics and moving to New York, leaving his brother, Ed, to run for prime minister.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published April 05, 2013, issue of April 12, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

It was perhaps the most consequential Jewish brother vs. brother feud since the biblical Joseph was packed off to Egypt. It ended, appropriately, during Passover. That’s when former British foreign minister David Miliband announced, two and a half years after losing a bitter Labour Party leadership battle to his little brother Ed, that he was quitting politics and moving to New York.

David Miliband, 47, will take over in September as president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, the massive, blue-chip American refugee and disaster relief agency. The committee was formed in 1933 at Albert Einstein’s urging to rescue Jewish intellectuals and socialist activists from Nazi Germany. It’s now active in 40 countries, with a staff of 12,000, a budget of nearly a half-billion dollars and a board that includes Kofi Annan, Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice. It’s come a long way. So, in short order, will Miliband.

In his March 27 resignation letter to party leaders, Miliband cited his lifelong efforts “to make a difference to the disadvantaged and vulnerable” and the vast resources the IRC can marshal. But he added a telling personal note. Recalling the organization’s anti-Nazi roots, he wrote that “given my own family history there is an additional personal motivation for me. I feel that in doing this job I will be repaying a personal debt.”

As most of Britain knows, his late father, Ralph Miliband, a celebrated sociologist and Marxist scholar, came to England in 1940 as a teenage Jewish refugee, together with his Polish-born father, on the last boat out of Nazi-occupied Belgium. First introduced to socialism as a member of the labor Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatzair, Ralph went on to become one of Britain’s most renowned social theorists. His widow, scholar-activist Marion Kozak, survived the war hidden by nuns in her native Poland.

Both brothers speak frequently about their background as children of Holocaust survivors and their debt to Britain for saving their parents. Yet they rarely refer to themselves as Jewish, more often calling themselves atheists of Jewish background. Both have sharply criticized Israeli actions in the territories, but both insist they are devoted friends of Israel.

They’ve publicly pursued their roots in Eastern Europe. David demonstratively visited the family gravesite in Warsaw during a state visit in 2009. Ed was contacted in Moscow that year on a radio call-in show by a long-lost cousin, Sofia Miliband, and skipped an official meeting to visit her. David met Sofia a year later. He returned in 2012 for her 90th birthday. He described the relationship and the double impact of the Holocaust and Communism on his family in a touching newspaper article, ending with a quote from Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about the importance of memory.

Lately, though, the Miliband family history that most interests the public is the one unfolding now — the fraternal rivalry that’s rattled the Labour Party, upset their mother and apparently ended what was once considered Britain’s most promising political career.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.