Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has praised his “Jewish mentors” who gave him “Jewish values” while working in trade unions as a young man, and said he wants to work with the Jewish community to stamp out race hate once and for all.
In a message to the community ahead of the election, arranged by the Board of Deputies, Corbyn recalled his younger years working in the National Union of Tailors and Garment Makers, and said he “learnt a lot” from veteran Jewish members.
“In particular, I learnt the Jewish values that embody the kind of Britain we’re fighting for – an open, welcoming, mutually-supportive and socially just country,” he said.
In a noticeably personal message, Corbyn – who has been derided by Jewish representatives – recalled how his mother fought alongside Jewish activists in the Battle of Cable Street.
“She took part in that historic day in 1936, when Jewish organisations, local residents, political activists and trade unions mounted an incredible resistance to stop the fascists from marching through east London with their message of hate,” he said.
“We should all be deeply troubled by the rise of anti-Semitic, Islamaphobic and other racially-motivated hate crimes during the past year. We need to come together to take on this ugly trend, with firm political will and proper resources.”
Corbyn said Labour “will work with the Jewish community… to draw up a clear strategy to tackle discrimination and abuse both offline and online,” citing more support to third-party reporting as an example of concrete action.
He also said he would “increase awareness and understanding of anti-Semitism, and expand Holocaust research remembrance commemoration and education in our schools”.
Corbyn also made reference to his unscheduled stop to visit the Terezin concentration camp last December, and in his video message, said he “reflected on how important it is not to stand by, in the face of injustice and persecution, but to stand up for an inclusive caring and just society, which offers everyone a decent future”.
He was among the four main political party leaders leaving their video messages to the Jewish community this week, noting the Board’s Jewish Manifesto, with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon joining Prime Minister Theresa May in giving their thoughts.
May said the Conservatives would “root out all forms of extremism, including anti-Semitism,” and in a nod to Labour recent travails, said: “Condemnation alone is not enough.”
She added: “Sadly the Conservative Party’s resolute commitment to the Jewish community and our firm stand against anti-Semitism is not shared by all of the other political parties.”
Sturgeon said she wanted Scotland’s Jewish community to be “not only safe, but thriving,” while Farron said his birthplace in the far north-west of England, “one of the least diverse parts of the UK,” was nevertheless where half the Jewish children rescued the Nazi death camps were resettled after the war.
“I am really proud of the Windermere Boys, I’m really proud of the community that welcomed them in 1945 and the years following. That is a true reflection of the real Britain.”