Kiwi Jew becomes PM
by: JTA - Last updated: 2008-11-11
John Key elected New Zealand prime minister
The son of a Jewish refugee was elected the prime minister of New Zealand.
John Key's conservative National Party swept to victory in the November 8 election, snapping the nine-year reign of Helen Clark and her Labour Party.
Key, 47, said the National Party, with 59 seats, had avowed support from two minor parties that would enable him to forge a coalition of 65 seats in the 122-seat parliament. Labor garnered 43 seats.
Key was raised by his mother, Ruth Lazar, in government-run housing after his alcoholic father died when Key was 7. Lazar's aunt had arranged a marriage in Britain on the eve of World War II that enabled Lazar, her mother and several other family members to escape Austria in 1939.
In an interview with Jewish news agency JTA on the eve of the election, Key attributed his success to his mother.
"She was an amazing lady," he said. "She had a strong sense of what was right and wrong, and a strong belief that I could achieve and could do great things, so she pushed me very hard."
Key went on to become a foreign currency dealer with Merrill Lynch in London before returning home in 2001 to begin his political rise.
A father of two children, he does not practice Judaism but says he is "very respectful" of the Jewish faith.
Key, who spoke at a celebration to mark Israel's 60th birthday earlier this year, said he hopes to visit the Jewish state, where he has cousins, and pay his respects at Yad Vashem.