The head of the strictly Orthodox Jewish community was “deceived” into signing a letter distancing Charedi Jews from the Chief Rabbi’s criticism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, according to those involved.
Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, the rabbinic head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (OUHC), who is currently in poor health, signed – then withdrew – a letter which appeared to call the Chief Rabbi’s recent comments “irresponsible”.
Jewish News had earlier been sent correspondence from both the general-secretary and president of the UOHC calling the letter “a forgery,” after having been sent a copy of Padwa’s letter by Corbyn-supporting Charedi activist Shraga Stern.
On Monday afternoon, after hours of claim and counter-claim, the UOHC said: “It is truly shocking that a few irresponsible hotheads would seek to take advantage of the Rov’s current poor health by deceiving him into signing a letter that has now been twisted into an endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn and circulated widely.
“The Rov’s position is clear in that he does not involve himself in such partisan political matters. This has always been the mesorah of the Rov and indeed of the Rov’s late father.”
Hours earlier, Chaim Schneck, the general-secretary of the UOHC, emailed the various heads of the Charedi community in the UK with a message from UOHC president Rabbi Dovid Frand, informing the executive that the letter was a “forgery”.
Padwa’s son, Rabbi Leibish Padwa, told Frand that it was fake but Stern said Leibish had been there when it was signed on Monday, during a meeting with Rabbi Shmuel Tambur, who told Padwa that the Chief Rabbi’s intervention had led to a rise in antisemitism.
The disputed letter, typed in Yiddish, reads: “We were shocked to learn about those who are disseminating rumours and blaming the leader of the Labour party Mr Jeremy Corbyn that he is an antisemite and so forth. We therefore proclaim our view that we have no connection whatsoever with these irresponsible actions.”
It is stamped with Padwa’s personal stamp and marks the latest example of a letter from the UOHC to be denounced as fake. Last year, 34 Charedi rabbis signed a letter supporting Corbyn. It was called a fake, but later revealed to be genuine.
Tambor said Padwa’s son Leibish “gave me the letter bearing the original stamp and signature of Rabbi Ephraim Padwa”.
Stern said: “It is beyond belief how a person can stoop to such a low level… by portraying as having been deceived due to his poor health. The Rov is, and was at the time of dictating and writing the letter, fully aware of what he was doing.”
He added: “Rabbi Shmuel Tambur has testified that the Rov was of sound mind and clearly signed the letter of his free will. He even urged Rabbi Tambur to do it as quickly as possible.”