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Why Jeremy Corbyn should be applauded for going to the Jewdas Seder

If other groups want to meet the Labour leader to share their concerns, says Charlotte Nichols, they need only do what Jewdas did and invite him.

    Jeremy Corbyn
    Jeremy Corbyn
    I emerged from the now notorious Jewdas Seder half drunk on four cups of wine and half on the joys of spring - my heart full from a really rowdy positive event with friends that drew on the richness of so many minhagim.
     
    Almost immediately my happy bubble was burst, as congregating around the door, a group were huddled around a mobile phone reading with despair an article posted on the right-wing Guido Fawkes website about the event that was posted long before it had even finished.
     
    All because Jeremy Corbyn had accepted an invitation to join us. 
     
    It was intended to be a private event. We agreed that we would not take photos and videos, primarily because there were children in attendance who obviously cannot consent to their image being taken, but also because it felt important to experience the Seder as active participants rather than through our screens.
     
    Jeremy’s invitation too, was intended to be a private matter. He attended in a personal capacity, and, importantly, was not there to take a few pictures and leave as so many politicians do when they claim to be “engaging” on any issue.
     
    He was there to listen, to learn, and to participate. He was part of the entire Seder, dramatic re-enactment of the Exodus story, boisterous singing in Yiddish, whipping each other with spring onions - the full works. He even brought along food from his allotment to share, a gesture really welcomed by those in attendance.
     
    A common complaint among young left-wing Jews like myself is that we are often made to feel like we should be apologetic for being Jewish in left spaces, and apologetic for being left-wing in Jewish spaces.
     
    At Jewdas’s recent Purim party, the first time I had been to any of their events or had any engagement with the group, it was the first time I felt I could unashamedly be both.
     
    The group is absolutely merciless in its satire which, yes, sometimes goes too far, but it’s always punching up not down.
     
    Jewdas has also been absolutely steadfast in addressing antisemitism on the left, particularly in pro-Palestine circles, including producing one of the most useful resources around on the distinction between antisemitism and criticism of Israel.
     
    They have raised strategic concerns about the way Labour antisemitism is being addressed and exploited by some, but they have not dismissed it out of hand as a valid issue. In fact, contrary to some reports and grainy out-of-context audio, the only person whose name I heard booed at the Seder was Ken Livingstone.
     
    While some communal bodies lay claim to speaking on behalf of the whole community, as though we are some monolithic bloc that speak with one collective voice, Jewdas is a place for disagreement, debate and where there are very few taboos.
     
    Many of the people involved in Jewdas became so through a failure of too many of our communal spaces to provide a space for young Jewish people to explore complex issues around our faith and gender or queer identities, and our relationship (or lack thereof) with the modern state of Israel.
     
    Those who have attacked Mr Corbyn’s attendance because he’s not speaking to the “right Jewish people” only legitimise Jewdas’s existence. That said, Jewdas does not exist entirely outside of the Jewish mainstream - many people in attendance were fully paid-up synagogue members, active in their communities, and even in the Rabbinate.
     
    All of us are proud of our Judaism, whatever we understand that to mean, and that was what the Seder was a celebration of.
     
    Jeremy accepting an invitation to celebrate a Jewish festival with young Jewish people should be applauded, as part of a wider programme of engagement, learning and reflection on his part.
     
    If other groups want to meet him to share their concerns, they need only do what Jewdas did and invite him.
     
    Charlotte Nichols is Young Labour's Women's Officer and a member of Manchester Reform Synagogue