United Synagogue president criticises Board's 'terrible' decision to invite Labour's Angela Rayner to Chanukah event

Michael Goldstein called for 'more considered leadership'


The President of the United Synagogue has spoken out to condemn the Board of Deputies’ decision to invite a member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet to address its Chanukah party, calling for “more considered leadership.”

Michael Goldstein was responding to the Board’s choice of Angela Rayner, an ally of Mr Corbyn, to speak at its Chanukah reception on December 3, alongside representatives of other parties.

“This is a terrible judgement call,” he tweeted. “We need more considered leadership.”

He was responding to an article by JC editor Stephen Pollard that criticised the Board’s "idiotic, craven and deeply counter-productive decision".

It said Ms Rayner had not "lifted not a finger in support for and said not a word in solidarity with her fellow Labour MPs battling antisemitic abuse - beyond mouthing the usual platitudes.”

"This invitation is a disgrace. It is a betrayal of every one of the victims of Corbynite abuse. It is a betrayal of our community’s stand against Labour antisemitism. And it is a damning indictment of the Board of Deputies leadership," the article said.

Ms Rayner, the shadow education secretary, was criticised in September, after she tweeted about Labour’s growing membership with the words “we’re going to need a bigger smear”, an apparent reference to accusations of antisemitism within the party, amid its standoff with the Jewish community over the summer.

She subsequently deleted the tweet, but not before saying: “It was smears against Labour Party in general, no mention of antisemitism smears? Our membership continues to grow despite hostility from sections of the MSM.”

Board President Marie van der Zyl defended the decision to invite Ms Rayner in an article in the JC, saying: “Some in the community seem to have adopted the ‘grand strategy’ of calling Jeremy Corbyn names in the Jewish media, refusing to speak to him or anyone around him and ... well, that’s it, actually.

"They think you can fight a culture of racism by sticking out your tongue, crossing your arms and stamping your feet. That may sound cathartic, but it is unlikely to be an effective way of winning the argument."

“Pursuing the communal interest is why the Board of Deputies and our colleagues at the Jewish Leadership Council have continued our engagement with these and other Shadow Cabinet members like Angela Rayner, Emily Thornberry and Andrew Gwynne in recent weeks and months.

"To put it simply: it is impossible to advocate for Israel if you won’t speak to the Shadow Foreign Secretary, or to speak up for Jewish schools if you refuse to speak to the Shadow Education Secretary.”

Attacking the JC's condemnation of the decision, Mrs van der Zyl wrote: "Why is it that when men say these things, they are ‘tough’, and when I say them, I have apparently ‘lost the plot’?"

Mr Goldstein is the brother of Jonathan Goldstein, the chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council.

Last month, the JLC criticised senior Reform Rabbi Danny Rich for saying the Jewish community had "an obligation to work very closely" with the Labour Party.

The JLC said in a statement: "Holding the Jewish community accountable for the current impasse is a perverse form of victim blaming."

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