Labour councillor elected deputy mayor after four years of ‘hellish’ abuse from opponents

Local councillor says antisemitic abuse ‘emboldened’ him as he joins top table in Elstree and Borehamwood


Outgoing Mayor Rebecca Challice, newly elected Deputy Mayor Cllr Dan Ozarow, newly elected Mayor Cllr Alpha Collins, clerk Tracey Malton and Cllr Graeme Alexander at the meeting on Wednesday

Dr Dan Ozarow has been elected deputy mayor of Elstree and Borehamwood town council in a turnaround for the Labour politician, who was subjected to years of abuse from Conservative councillors and social media users.

The Jewish politician was selected by the council's Labour group during an internal vote on Wednesday and will serve as deputy mayor for three years.

Referring to the abuse he endured whilst serving on a different council, Ozarow said his election to the office “gives me a bit of closure”.

Last May, Ozarow was forced to stand down from Hertsmere Borough Council after enduring years of torrid abuse, which included death threats and a billboard at Elstree and Borehamwood station that suggested he was a supporter of Hezbollah.

Five Hertsmere Tory councillors were found to be in breach of the party’s code of conduct and were disciplined for mounting a “vicious, sinister, personal campaign” against Ozarow “that went on for many months”.

During the period of abuse, much of which was antisemitic, Ozarow, who attends the Liberal Synagogue Elstree, was told to “die in the gas chambers”, that he was a “Nazi Jew”, and received a message which he perceived as a threat to his unborn baby.

One man is nearing the end of a two-year prison sentence after levelling violent threats on social media towards the Jewish councillor.

Ozarow, who is a senior university lecturer at Middlesex University, told the JC: “The trauma is something I live with every day. [It] “was most horrific and frightening time in my and my family’s lives”.

Despite “living in fear”, the father of two was determined to continue serving his community and successfully sought election onto Elstree and Borehamwood town council, which represents 23,000 residents and is a different authority to the borough council which was home to those foun to be inciting abuse against him.

"The whole thing emboldened me,” he said, telling the JC that since being elected last May, the Elstree local had enjoyed working on the town’s twinning with Shoham in Israel and had helped to coordinate a football match between Borehamwood and Maccabi Shoham in July.

“Doing this role gives me a platform to do so many amazing things which are a tremendous privilege,” he said.

Ozarow, who will serve under the new mayor, Cllr Alpha Collins, also pointed to the work that the Labour group had done to help save a local cinema from closure and reestablish the town market, which will open later this month.

“When you know that you’ve changed just one person’s life, that is huge. Being a councillor, despite everything that has happened to me, is a huge privilege and honour,” Ozarow said.

He said becoming deputy mayor was “incredibly satisfying” but added: “I do still find it terribly sad that in the 21st century, a Jew can be abused and harassed out of elected office, whilst several of the perpetrators remain and none were suspended or expelled.”

Harvey Cohen, chair of Hertsmere Conservative Association said that he was upset to hear that “Mr Ozarow continues with these offensive allegations of anti-semitic behaviour against five Jewish and proudly Zionist Conservative members.

"His allegations were independently investigated and it was found that nothing had been done that should warrant suspension of party membership. Our members were reprimanded for engaging in ‘negative campaigning’.”

Cohen said that “some members of the public did send unacceptable abuse to Mr Ozarow, which we have always and continue to condemn”.

Also elected on Wednesday evening was local chazan (synagogue cantor) Cllr Graeme Alexander, who has become council leader. The outgoing mayor, Cllr Rebecca Challice, is also Jewish.

Elstree and Borehamwood is home to the fastest-growing Jewish community in Europe.

Labour took control of its town council in May 2023 for the first time since 2007.

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