Jewish celebrities and professionals have penned an open letter criticising the chief rabbi’s “sensationalist allegations” of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and his equation of anti-Zionism with Jew hatred.

Comedian Alexei Sayle and actress Miriam Margolyes were among the 88 signatories to a letter, posted in The Guardian on Tuesday, following Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s comments in The Telegraph last week.

The group said Mirvis now “joins in the sensationalist allegations of antisemitism in the Labour party, where the headlines’ decibel level is in inverse proportion to the evidence supporting them”.

They add: “Mirvis attacks as anti-Semitic those who separate Judaism from Zionism. Yet most Jews who perished in the Holocaust were indifferent to Zionism and many opposed it… Is he recasting those victims of the Holocaust posthumously as enemies of Judaism and therefore as anti-Semites?”

Mirvis wrote: “One can no more separate [Zionism] from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain,” attacking former London mayor Ken Livingstone and the new president of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, for doing so.