Ex-Bevis Marks rabbi resumes usury fight

The former rabbi of Bevis Marks is continuing to support a campaign against high interest rates, despite his involvement having indirectly cost him his job.

Rabbi Natan Asmoucha resigned from the City of London synagogue last month after months of tension with the leaders of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation.

He had been disciplined following his participation in an interfaith rally in July, organised by the charity London Citizens, which set off from Bevis Marks to the nearby headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

But on Wednesday he took part in the group’s latest campaign for a law for fairer lending, which was launched at its national assembly attended by 2,000 people.

“I think it’s very important that Jewish leaders get involved in the grassroots level of communities,” he said.

“It’s all about making the fabric of society stronger. It’s not about everyone agreeing on everything, but about being engaged in dialogue about for social action and social justice.”

London Citizens activist Maurice Glasman noted that anti-usury protests in the past may have had antisemitic overtones, but this time “our campaign has been led by a rabbi”.

Another rabbi due to take part was the senior rabbi of the Masorti movement, Jonathan Wittenberg, who was planning to read a section from the book of Nehemiah where the people cry out against the burden of loans.

The campaign, he said, “is about the fact that the most vulnerable people are getting increasingly trapped in debt. It is an unarguable case and biblical and rabbinic tradition has a lot to say about it and ought to be represented.”

His own synagogue, New North London, is a member of London Citizens which is “an important forum, based on grassroots, shared communal values.”

    Last updated: 4:42pm, November 26 2009