More than 30 members leave New North London over rabbi who called Israeli leaders ‘war criminals’

Rabbi Lara Haft Yom-Tov's comments on Israel continue to rock flagship Masorti shul


There have been calls from members of NNLS for Rabbi Lara Haft Yom-Tov to resign from the shul after controversial comments made in a Haggadah supplement (Photo: YouTube)

Multiple families have resigned from the UK’s leading Masorti synagogue over a rabbi who called Israeli politicians “war criminals”.

A rabbi at the New North London Synagogue in Finchley, Rabbi Lara Haft Yom-Tov wrote in a Haggadah supplement, not connected to the synagogue, that Israeli politicians “have manufactured a famine in Gaza, leading millions to the brink of starvation.”

Yom-Tov wrote: “...the same war criminals who have forced Palestinian families to flee their homes will lift up their matzah and wax poetic about the Israelites’ rush to escape Egypt.”

Nine families comprising of 18 adults and 13 people under 21 have resigned, “citing Rabbi Lara as a reason for leaving,” according to the shul.

In May, at least 130 members of the synagogue called for Rabbi Yom-Tov to resign over the Haggadah essay. The rabbi was subsequently subject to a disciplinary process in which NNLS executives told members that there was a “finding of serious misconduct”, but that NNLS Council had “voted unanimously not to dismiss Rabbi Lara”. 

The JC spoke to one anonymous family who had resigned their membership after over a decade at NNLS.

The family ended their direct debit payments before the outcome of the disciplinary process, with the mother stating: “If you’re hiring rabbis like that and putting them in charge of children and you’re okay with that, I don’t want to be a part of that.”

She said: “I find it difficult to accept having a rabbi who would write these things. I have friends who have been enlisted, friends who have been killed and friends of friends taken hostage.

“I always assumed Masorti was Zionist but welcoming someone like that into the community felt one step too far. In an endeavour to make people comfortable, they’re trying to be all things to all people [...] I don’t believe politics has a place in prayer.”

Criticising the fact that Rabbi Yom-Tov was able to publish the essay without guidance from senior leaders at NNLS, the member added: “I feel our community leaders have failed us, they put them out there without the support she needed.”

Another member criticised Rabbi Yom-Tov's place at NNLS, saying: “What was the process for hiring them? Did people not know of their affiliations? I don’t think they fit into the shul.”

But the member added: "[NNLS] is not a monolithic thing, it is a big tent; it is a heterogeneous group with multiple services.”

NNLS currently holds three minyans every Shabbat, including traditional and egalitarian.

But despite the recent resignations, overall NNLS is a growing community. In the same period, 18 families of 53 adults and children have joined the congregation.

The JC has spoken to several members of the shul who support Rabbi Yom-Tov.

One member said: “Rabbi Louis Jacobs was pushed out of the United Synagogue and established the New London Synagogue. Pushing Rabbi Lara out of Masorti Judaism for a perceived heterodoxy would be ironic.”

“All our rabbis say things that are political [...] We have a rabbinic team with a diversity of views, which is only appropriate for a community with a wide range of views. Rabbis say political things; that is part of the role.”

Rabbi Lara and NNLS have been approached for comment.

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