Five rabbis have resigned their membership of Unite after the union’s boss Len McCluskey issued what they called “a threat” to the Jewish community.
West London Synagogue’s Rabbi David Mitchell and Leo Baeck College’s Rabbi Deborah Kahn-Harris were among those to issue an angry open letter to Unite’s chief of staff saying McCluskey no longer represented them.
The five rabbis said McCluskey had shown a “slow recognition” of the problem of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party and “has usually done so in the context of a counter-attack against critics of Jeremy Corbyn”.
Writing in HuffPost last week, the union boss accused the Jewish community of “not taking ‘yes’ for an answer,” and derided the “truculent hostility” of Jewish representatives in response to Labour’s efforts to sort the problem.
But the signatories, including Birmingham’s Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Bristol’s Rabbi Monique Mayer and Rabbi Richard Jacobi of East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue, said his comments showed the union had “lost control of its leadership”.
They said McCluskey’s comments were “not only unhelpful, but are disingenuous, for in so doing he attempts to rewrite the story of the last six months and plays down the genuine concerns of the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community”.
The Unite boss had used his article to call for Jewish community leaders to engage with Labour “before the political estrangement between them and the Labour Party becomes entrenched,” but the rabbis said this “feels a little too much like a threat”.
Responding to McCluskey’s comments that he answers to those he represents, the rabbis said: “We realise that he no longer means us. Therefore, with regret, we must join with our rabbinic colleagues who have already terminated their membership.”
Speaking to Jewish News, Rabbi David Mitchell said it was a sad moment for him, having been a member of Unite for more than nine years, but he said McCluskey’s comments were only the latest in a series of concerning remarks.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “I believe in the trade union movement, we have a long history of activism in it, but Len McCluskey can’t represent me when he takes the line he does. I’m deeply concerned about his attack, and unfortunately I just don’t feel like Unite is a home for me anymore.”