A group of 68 British rabbis from across the denominational spectrum have signed an unprecedented letter urging Labour “to listen to the Jewish community" and adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
In a sign of how frustrated British Jews have become with Jeremy Corbyn's Labour, Orthodox rabbis joined the senior UK rabbis of Reform, Masorti and Liberal Judaism to "speak out with one Jewish voice" because "antisemitism within sections of the Labour party has become so severe and widespread".
Among the Orthodox rabbis is Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, from the Charedi community.
The letter was published in the Guardian ahead of Tuesday’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting, where party members will vote on whether to approve a new code of conduct on antisemitism that omits key parts of the IHRA definition relating to criticism of Israel.
These include accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than their own nations, claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavour and comparing Israeli actions to the Nazis.Labour has argued those examples are already covered in the wider new code of conduct.
"The Labour party’s leadership has chosen to ignore those who understand antisemitism the best, the Jewish community," the rabbis' letter says.
"By claiming to know what’s good for our community, the Labour party’s leadership have chosen to act in the most insulting and arrogant way."
Among the signatories were Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski, Senior Rabbi, Golders Green Synagogue and Vice-Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi, Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community of the UK, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism and Rabbi Nicky Liss, Highgate Synagogue and Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue.
The Jewish Labour Movement coordinated the letter signing and said the 68 rabbis represented the voices of over 30,000 British Jewish households.
As it was published on Monday, Labour MPs gathered to meet at parliament and voted overwhelmingly for a motion calling on the party to adopt the full IHRA definition of Jew hate, defying their leadership.
Rabbi Harvey Belovski, Senior Rabbi, Golders Green Synagogue and Vice-Chair, said: “The spiritual leaders of the Jewish community have spoken with unprecedented unity on this vital issue, and expect the Labour Party to respond to our concerns by immediately adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism in full.”
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism, said: “We know that there is the possibly of change of attitude within the leadership of the Labour Party, and we expect the Leader of the Opposition to show moral leadership in respecting the rights of minority communities to self-define.”
The letter and list of signatories in full:
As British Rabbis, it is with great regret that we find it necessary to write, yet antisemitism within sections of the Labour Party has become so severe and widespread that we must speak out with one Jewish voice.
The Labour Party’s leadership has chosen to ignore those who understand antisemitism the best, the Jewish community. By claiming to know what’s good for our community, the Labour Party’s leadership have chosen to act in the most insulting and arrogant way.
It is not the Labour Party’s place to rewrite a definition of antisemitism accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service, College of Policing, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, National Union of Students, and 124 local authorities, including scores of Labour-held councils, including Haringey and Greater Manchester – but above all else – accepted by the vast majority of Jewish people in Britain and globally.
On behalf of our communities, members and congregants, we, the undersigned Rabbis, urge the Labour Party to listen to the Jewish community, adopt the full and unamended International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism including its examples, and like the organisations listed above, use the IHRA definition alone as their working definition of antisemitism.
Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski, Senior Rabbi, Golders Green Synagogue and Vice-Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi, Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community of the UK
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism
Rabbi Nicky Liss, Highgate Synagogue and Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, Principal of the Yesodey Hatorah schools
Rabbi Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi and Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi to Masorti Judaism
Alongside the Undersigned Rabbis:
1. Rabbi Stuart Altshuler, Belsize Square Synagogue
2. Rabbi Larry Becker, Sukkat Shalom Reform Synagogue
3. Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum, Hadley Wood Jewish Community & Executive, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
4. Rabbi Yehuda Black, Kenton United Synagogue
5. Dayan Ivan Binstock, Senior Rabbi, St John’s Wood Synagogue
6. Rabbi Janet Burden, Ealing Liberal Synagogue
7. Rabbi Baruch Davis, Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue and Past Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
8. Rabbi Hadassah Davis, Member of the Liberal Rabbinic Conference
9. Rabbi Colin Eimer, Emeritus Rabbi, Sha'arei Tsedek North London Reform Synagogue
10. Rabbi Daniel Epstein, Cockfosters & North Southgate Synagogue
11. Rabbi Elchonon Feldman, Senior Rabbi, Bushey and District United Synagogue
12. Rabbi Yisroel Fine, St Johns Wood Synagogue
13. Rabbi Paul Freedman, Senior Rabbi, Radlett Reform Synagogue
14. Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, New West End Synagogue
15. Rabbi Ariel J Friedlander
16. Rabbi Yoni Golker, Assistant Rabbi, St John's Wood Synagogue
17. Rabbi Michael Harris, Hampstead Synagogue
18. Rabbi Simon Harris, Wembley Synagogue
19. Rabbi Frank Hellner, Emeritus Rabbi, Finchley Progressive Synagogue.
20. Rabbi Jonny Hughes LLB, Radlett United Synagogue
21. Rabbi Geoffrey Hyman, Rabbi, Ilford United Synagogue
22. Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Birmingham Progressive Synagogue
23. Rabbi Richard Jacobi, East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue
24. Cantor Zoe Jacobs, Finchley Reform Synagogue
25. Rabbi Oliver Spike Joseph, Elstree & Borehamwood Masorti Community
26. Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, Senior Rabbi Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue & Chair Vaad Harabonim Mizrachi UK
27. Rabbi Dov Kaplan, Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue
28. Rabbi Yuval Keren, Southgate Progressive Synagogue
29. Rabbi Michael Laitner, Senior Rabbi of United Synagogue Jewish Living and Assistant Rabbi, Finchley Synagogue
30. Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, Senior Rabbi, Finchley United Synagogue
31. Rabbi Barry Lerer, Barnet Synagogue
32. Rabbi Judith Levitt, Sha'arei Tsedek North London Reform Synagogue
33. Rabbi Mendel Lew, Stanmore & Canons Park Synagogue
34. Rabbi Shlomo Odze, Associate Rabbi, South Hampstead United Synagogue and Vice Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
35. Rabbi Alan Mann
36. Rabbi Rodney Mariner, former Rabbi, Belsize Square Synagogue
37. Rabbi David Mason, Rabbi at Muswell Hill Synagogue and Executive Member, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
38. Rabbi David Mitchell, West London Synagogue
39. Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue
40. Rabbi Rene Pfertzel, Kingston Liberal Synagogue
41. Rabbi Hershel Rader, Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation
42. Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, Maidenhead Synagogue
43. Rabbi Michael Rosenfeld-Schueler, Jewish Chaplain, University of Oxford & Oxford Brookes
44. Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, Past Chair of the Rabbinic Assembly of Reform Judaism
45. Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue
46. Rabbi Dr J Shindler, Executive Director, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
47. Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, Mill Hill Synagogue
48. Rabbi Irit Shillor, Harlow Jewish Community
49. Rabbi Yitzchok Sufrin, Enfield & Winchmore Hill United Synagogue
50. Rabbi Lee M Sunderland, Romford & District Synagogue
51. Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick, Convenor of the Beit Din, The Movement for Reform Judaism
52. Rabbi Roni Tabick, New Stoke Newington Synagogue
53. Rabbi Sam Taylor, Community Rabbi, Western Marble Arch Synagogue
54. Rabbi Pete Tobias, The Liberal Synagogue Elstree
55. Rabbi Alexander Tsykin, Jewish Chaplain, Bristol and Western Region
56. Rabbi Dr Martin van den Bergh, Childwall Hebrew Congregation
57. Dayan Elimelech Vanzetta, Rabbi, Ahavas Yisrael
58. Rabbi Charles Wallach, Bournemouth Reform Synagogue
59. Rabbi Chaim Weiner, Director of Masorti Europe and European Masorti Bet Din
61. Rabbi Dr Andrea Zanardo, Brighton and Hove Reform Synagogue