Plenty of Jews in the UK would say the chief rabbi does not speak for them. They may be from different traditions in Judaism – progressive or ultra-Orthodox – or they may be secular. But many, probably most, agree with the thrust of his unprecedented intervention in next month’s general election.
Ephraim Mirvis, the UK’s most senior Jewish leader who represents Orthodox Judaism, accused Jeremy Corbyn of allowing a “poison sanctioned from the top” to take root in the Labour party. British Jews, he said in an article in the Times, were gripped by a justified anxiety about the prospect of a Corbyn-led government.
His comments caused a furore on social media and among politicians campaigning in the election. Some accused Mirvis of speaking on behalf of the Israeli government and being an “apartheid propagandist”. But for many, the chief rabbi’s comments epitomised their revulsion at the Labour leadership’s failures to deal with accusations of antisemitism.
Raymond Simonson, chief executive of JW3, a Jewish cultural centre in north London, said: “I’ve worked in this community my whole career and lived in it my whole life. I can’t remember something like this happening before.
“For the chief rabbi, the most senior religious leader in the UK Jewish community, to come out with something as strong as this is extraordinary. Even if people disagree, the fact he’s moved to say this publicly reflects absolute angst in his heart, soul and mind.
“I speak to hundreds of [Jewish] people as part of my job – Orthodox and Reform, religious and secular, gay and straight – and I know not everyone thinks the same on this or on any issue. But what I’m hearing again and again is people who have been natural Labour voters reluctantly coming to the conclusion that they can’t vote Labour this time. I guarantee this will be the number one conversation around Shabbat dinner tables this Friday.” [Continue reading…]