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David Cameron could be a direct descendant of Moses, a Jewish scholar has suggested.
Political commentators have long known that the Conservative Party leader’s paternal great-great-grandfather was a Jewish immigrant who became a successful businessman.
But Yaakov Wise, a research fellow at the University of Manchester Centre for Jewish Studies, has traced the politician’s ancestry back to Elijah Levita, an eminent 16th-century Jewish scholar. Dr Wise’s study of archival material also suggests that Mr Cameron, who has described himself as an “enthusiastic friend of the Jewish people”, could be a direct descendant of Moses.
Mr Cameron’s great-great-grandfather, Emile Levita, arrived in Britain from Germany in the 1850s and rose swiftly in the world of commerce, gaining citizenship in 1871 and becoming director of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, based in London.
Levita married out of the faith and adopted the trappings of an English gentleman, owning a grouse moor in Wales and sending his four sons to Eton. His son Arthur, a stockbroker, married Steffie Cooper, a relative of King George III, and Mr Cameron’s relationship to the monarchy survives to this day — he is a fifth cousin of the Queen, once removed.
Dr Wise has traced the family’s ancestral line back to Elijah Levita, 1469-1549, a central figure in the “Christian Hebraist” movement, who pioneered Hebrew and Yiddish linguistic research at the time of the Tudors.
The name Levita is the Latin form of Levite, meaning a Jew descended from the tribe of Levi, the son of Jacob, and one of the original 12 tribes of Israel. Dr Wise acknowledges, however, that Mr Cameron’s connection to Moses, who led his people out of slavery in Egypt, is less certain, describing his thesis as historical whimsy.
He said: “It is possible that Cameron is a direct descendant of Moses or, at least, a cousin. The leader of the Levites at the time of the exodus from Egypt was Moses, who was married with two sons named in the Bible.
“However, later descendants are unknown and many of today’s Levites, often carrying the surnames Levy, Levitan or Levita, could in fact be his descendants.”
Dr Wise said that Jewish records were notoriously difficult to follow because it was likely that they had been destroyed during the Jewish people’s flight from persecution. A recognisable trail to antiquity is impossible.