Rabbis back chief rabbi's attack on 'mendacious' Labour leadership

The unprecedented condemnation of the party attracts sympathy from across religious spectrum


The Chief Rabbi’s unprecedented intervention in politics has drawn sympathy from across the religious spectrum, although some have taken a more nuanced approach.

Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi of the S&P Sephardi Community, was most direct in his support, saying: “I stand with him and his message.”

Reform’s Senior Rabbi, Laura Janner-Klausner, said the issue of antisemitism in Labour was “not only a Jewish matter. What is happening is a warning that applies to all minorities.”

As Rabbi Mirvis had indicated, “it is not our place to tell others how to vote,” she said. “It would be deeply regrettable for 2019 to be remembered only for conversations about antisemitism and we hope that all issues of racism and discrimination will be considered.”

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, chair of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors, said Rabbi Mirvis had “echoed the fears that many of us within Liberal Judaism and the Jewish world hear daily… We respect his bravery in stepping into the limelight.”

There were many issues “that need to be considered when casting our ballot”, he said, and the movement encouraged “sincere debate on difficult issues in a considerate manner, assuming the good intentions of the other unless proven otherwise.”

Masorti’s Senior Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg called Rabbi Mirvis “ a deeply humane leader” who had been “frank and courageous” in his statement on antisemitism.

But he added: “My concerns at this critical time are not limited to one major party. The language of bullying and disdain from the other side of the House and the relationship with groups embracing racism, xenophobia and contempt, are also of the most profound concern.”

While people should vote according to conscience, “this will no doubt lead… to deeply felt but differing conclusions,” he said.

There were pockets of disagreement with the Chief Rabbi’s stance. One Liberal rabbi, Mark Solomon, posted on Facebook, “Much as I loathe Corbyn… I think the Chief Rabbi’s intervention is terribly unwise. It makes me much more anxious for the future of our community than the possibility of a Labour government.”

One Charedi anti-Zionist group, United European Jews, wrote to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to dispute the Chief Rabbi’s claim that most British Jews were “gripped with anxiety”, saying the words did “not represent the views of the mainstream Charedi Jews who live in the UK”.

They thanked Mr Corbyn for his “numerous acts of solidarity with the Jewish community over many years”.

The letter, which listed a Stamford Hill address, was signed by the group’s Belgium-based director, Rabbi Mayer Weinberger. From its letterhead, its supporters appear to include a number of Satmar Chasidic rabbis.

The Charedi blogger If You Tickle Us dismissed the UEJ letter, saying there was not a single “mainstream Charedi rabbi” among them.

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