Yiddish-language Labour leaflets have been posted to Charedi households this week as part of a pact between the party and strictly Orthodox activists aimed at unseating opposition incumbents.
The leaflets have been targeted at families and synagogues in the largely Jewish wards of Cazenove, Stamford Hill West and Springfield in the North London borough of Hackney.
Roughly translated they read: “Brothers in knowledge – for the benefit of our community. Charedi Jewry of Stamford Hill: vote with the aim of bringing results which are to our benefit.
“Vote Labour – have an opinion in your vote!”
Last month the JC reported that housing and planning struggles were at the forefront of Charedi concerns ahead of Thursday’s council elections.
For the growing number of large strictly Orthodox families, soaring house prices have restricted their opportunities to find somewhere to live in the area.
Shraga Stern, a member of the Stamford Hill Charedi community and one of the activists behind the campaign, said that “progress” would be made in the areas thanks to “better channels of communication” between the community and council leadership.
The Labour Party currently holds 50 of the 58 seats on Hackney Council – plus the elected mayor position. Each of the seven opposition candidates are representatives in the borough’s three Charedi-populated wards.
But opposition candidates rejected the suggestion that the Labour Party would direct its attention to the Charedi community just to win “a few more seats”.
Last month a meeting was held between Charedi community representatives and Philip Glanville, the Mayor of Hackney, and local Labour candidates.
Mr Stern said: “We feel the community is about ready for a change. We found that the mayor was really keen and really interested to hear what we had to say.
“We’re running this campaign because the current system hasn’t brought us anything. We have councillors who work 24 hours a day, killing themselves for the community.
“Unfortunately they can’t deliver anything for us, being in the minority against the Labour Party.
“We’re telling people to have a say with their vote. Don’t just vote because your neighbour or the guy across the street is your councillor.
“Think about what the benefits to the community can be – and who will deliver those benefits.”
Joe Walker, a Labour candidate in Springfield, told the JC that no direct promises have been made to the Charedi community, although the party has made it clear Labour councillors “will be in a much stronger position to take the community’s concerns into account”.
Mr Walker also expressed a wish for the Charedi community to become more involved in council consultations for new “area plans”, which will cover issues such as planning policy.
Ian Sharer, a long-serving Cazenove Liberal Democrat councillor, branded Labour’s campaign “a joke”, saying the party has “never done a thing to help the local community”.
He said: “I have worked tirelessly for this community for 22 years. The Labour Party has been in power for a long time, and never done anything. Why would they change now?”
Michael Levy, a Conservative Springfield councillor, echoed Mr Sharer, asking why the council would “suddenly tear up their planning policy for extra votes”.
He added: “This is pie-in-the-sky thinking, and I suspect the people will not fall for it.”
Adding to the strong Labour presence in North Hackney, a 12-strong contingent of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) members turned out to canvass in Stamford Hill on Monday.
JVL, whose members are on the far left of the Labour Party, has been vocal in its support of Jeremy Corbyn and maintains that antisemitism is worse on the right than the left. The group said it encountered “no hostility” on the doorstep in the largely Charedi area.
On April 26 the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC), the umbrella body representing strictly Orthodox shuls, distanced itself from an advert in the Heimishe Newssheet, a Charedi newspaper, calling on members to vote for incumbent candidates.
In a letter to congregants, the UOHC said the advert, which carried its insignia, was “printed without permission”.
It said: "In all similar occasions, the policy of the UOHC is to remain neutral in accordance with our Rabbinate's instructions."