Shraga Stern

Among Charedim, Jeremy Corbyn's defeat is not being celebrated at all

The outgoing Labour leader has a distinguished record of support for our concerns, writes Shraga Stern

December 19, 2019 11:25

In her JC article on the recent General Election, Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl does not beat about the bush.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – she alleges – tolerated and turned a blind eye to attacks on the Jewish people launched from within his own party.

“When he eventually steps back," she writes, "history will not look kindly on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, where anti-Jewish racism has been allowed to run amok.”

Has it? In the wake of the election a number of myths have arisen.

One is of course that Brexit triumphed over Remain. In terms of Westminster seats that is true, but in terms of votes cast it isn’t.

As a matter of fact, the combined total vote share for the pro-Brexit parties reached 47.33 per cent, while Labour's vote share combined with the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Greens, Sinn Fein, Plaid Cymru and Alliance amounted to 52.67 per cent.

Remain won the argument but the electoral system robbed it of victory.

2019 was not, however, a Brexit election. Nor, in spite of the best efforts of so-called "mainstream" Anglo-Jewish organisations, does antisemitism appear to have featured as more than a peripheral election issue.

As the Campaign Against Antisemitism was forced to concede, a Deltapoll commissioned by the Jewish Leadership Council shortly before the election actually found that only 16 percent of 2017 Labour voters were wavering about voting for the Labour Party again because of the anti-Jewish prejudice that seems to have obsessed Mrs van der Zyl and the Deputies’ two ecclesiastical authorities, United Synagogue “chief rabbi” Ephraim Mirvis and Sephardi rabbinical authority Joseph Dweck.

In the Orthodox Jewish communities within which I live in Hackney, what was much more important was Labour’s promise to abolish Ofsted, which is currently engaged in what can only be described as a crusade against Torah-Orthodox schools.

Charedi Jews want to see the back of Ofsted, but it seems this will not now happen. Instead the Board of Deputies, acting virtually as the agent of Ofsted, will continue to undermine Orthodox religious values.

This hardly reflects the spirit of communal unity that Mrs van der Zyl claims to espouse.

By mid-century – if not before – Charedi Jews will constitute at least half of the Anglo-Jewish total.

What do ‘mainstream’ communal organisations propose to do about this? Will they continue to pedal the lie that they ‘represent’ the totality of British Jews, whilst ignoring the concerns of the majority?

As historian and political analyst Professor Geoffrey Alderman has explained, Jeremy Corbyn has a distinguished and documented record of support for charedi concerns, such as the behaviour of coroners’ courts.

But these concerns are not only religious in a narrow sense. They embrace, for example, the shortcomings of Universal Credit – especially the two-child cap on its child element, which palpably discriminates against charedi families.

In summary, within charedi communities Labour’s 2019 election defeat is not being celebrated at all. Mrs van der Zyl needs to accept this reality.

Shraga Stern is a strictly Orthodox activist and head of a Hackney-based construction company

December 19, 2019 11:25

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