Almost seventy rabbis from across the religious spectrum have signed a letter to Labour’s governing body, detailing concerns over the party’s decision to adopt a new code for tackling anti-Semitism.
Faith leaders from communities representing 30,000 households said it is with “great regret” they undersigned the letter, accusing the party of “claiming to know what’s good for our community” in “the most insulting and arrogant way”.
This comes after politicians joined Jewish leaders last week, in condemning a new code of conduct to tackle anti-Semitism as “an extraordinary act of bad faith”.
Among the senior rabbis who signed the letter, collected by the Jewish Labour Movement, include Rabbi Nicky Liss, Highgate Synagogue and Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, Principal of the Yesodey Hatorah schools, S&P’S Senior Rabbi Joseph Dweck, top Reform leader Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi and Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, Danny Rich, and Masorti Judaism’s senior rabbi, Jonathan Wittenberg.
Labour followed the government, Crown Prosecution Service and dozens of local authorities in adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism last week. However, it provoked anger by leaving out some of its accompanying examples of contemporary anti-Semitism.
Ahead of Labour NEC’s meeting this week, where it will consider the proposed code, 68 rabbis from the United Synagogue, Strictly-Orthodox community, Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community, Liberal, Reform and Masorti movements, expressed their concerns.
Claiming Labour has “chosen to ignore those who understand antisemitism the best, the Jewish community”, the letter urges the party “to listen to the Jewish community, adopt the full and unamended International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism”.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism said “We know that there is the possibly of change of attitude within the leadership of the Labour Party, and we expect the Leader of the Opposition to show moral leadership in respecting the rights of minority communities to self-define.”
Rabbi Harvey Belovski, Senior Rabbi, Golders Green Synagogue and Vice-Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue said “The spiritual leaders of the Jewish community have spoken with unprecedented unity on this vital issue, and expect the Labour Party to respond to our concerns by immediately adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism in full.”
After the party’s decision last week, writing for Jewish News, Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby said Labour did not adopt the IHRA working examples because “they do not go far enough for practical use by a political party” and labels the new code the “most detailed and comprehensive” adopted by any party.
This was however questioned by community leaders, with Jewish Leadership Council chairman Jonathan Goldstein, saying Formby’s explanation “defies logic.”
“The notion that these measures are designed to enhance and protect the Jewish community is not something we are inclined to believe especially as no one was consulted in its preparation.
“I’m terribly disappointed we have reached the point where the Jewish community is being singled out by the Labour leadership and treated in a way no other minority would be. If these proposals are formally adopted it would only strengthen the argument that the party has become institutionally anti-Semitic”.
Read the letter in full here:
As British Rabbis, it is with great regret that we find it necessary to write, yet antisemitism within sections of the Labour Party has become so severe and widespread that we must speak out with one Jewish voice.
The Labour Party’s leadership has chosen to ignore those who understand antisemitism the best, the Jewish community. By claiming to know what’s good for our community, the Labour Party’s leadership have chosen to act in the most insulting and arrogant way.
It is not the Labour Party’s place to rewrite a definition of antisemitism accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service, College of Policing, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, National Union of Students, and 124 local authorities, including scores of Labour-held councils, including Haringey and Greater Manchester – but above all else – accepted by the vast majority of Jewish people in Britain and globally.
On behalf of our communities, members and congregants, we, the undersigned Rabbis, urge the Labour Party to listen to the Jewish community, adopt the full and unamended International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism including its examples, and like the organisations listed above, use the IHRA definition alone as their working definition of antisemitism.
Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski, Senior Rabbi, Golders Green Synagogue and Vice-Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi, Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community of the UK
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism
Rabbi Nicky Liss, Highgate Synagogue and Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, Principal of the Yesodey Hatorah schools
Rabbi Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi and Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi to Masorti Judaism
Alongside the Undersigned Rabbis:
- Rabbi Stuart Altshuler, Belsize Square Synagogue
- Rabbi Larry Becker, Sukkat Shalom Reform Synagogue
- Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum, Hadley Wood Jewish Community & Executive, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
- Rabbi Yehuda Black, Kenton United Synagogue
- Dayan Ivan Binstock, Senior Rabbi, St John’s Wood Synagogue
- Rabbi Janet Burden, Ealing Liberal Synagogue
- Rabbi Baruch Davis, Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue and Past Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
- Rabbi Hadassah Davis, Member of the Liberal Rabbinic Conference
- Rabbi Colin Eimer, Emeritus Rabbi, Sha’arei Tsedek North London Reform Synagogue
- Rabbi Daniel Epstein, Cockfosters & North Southgate Synagogue
- Rabbi Elchonon Feldman, Senior Rabbi, Bushey and District United Synagogue
- Rabbi Yisroel Fine, St Johns Wood Synagogue
- Rabbi Paul Freedman, Senior Rabbi, Radlett Reform Synagogue
- Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, New West End Synagogue
- Rabbi Ariel J Friedlander
- Rabbi Yoni Golker, Assistant Rabbi, St John’s Wood Synagogue
- Rabbi Michael Harris, Hampstead Synagogue
- Rabbi Simon Harris, Wembley Synagogue
- Rabbi Frank Hellner, Emeritus Rabbi, Finchley Progressive Synagogue.
- Rabbi Jonny Hughes LLB, Radlett United Synagogue
- Rabbi Geoffrey Hyman, Rabbi, Ilford United Synagogue
- Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Birmingham Progressive Synagogue
- Rabbi Richard Jacobi, East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue
- Cantor Zoe Jacobs, Finchley Reform Synagogue
- Rabbi Oliver Spike Joseph, Elstree & Borehamwood Masorti Community
- Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, Senior Rabbi Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue & Chair Vaad Harabonim Mizrachi UK
- Rabbi Dov Kaplan, Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue
- Rabbi Yuval Keren, Southgate Progressive Synagogue
- Rabbi Michael Laitner, Senior Rabbi of United Synagogue Jewish Living and Assistant Rabbi, Finchley Synagogue
- Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, Senior Rabbi, Finchley United Synagogue
- Rabbi Barry Lerer, Barnet Synagogue
- Rabbi Judith Levitt, Sha’arei Tsedek North London Reform Synagogue
- Rabbi Mendel Lew, Stanmore & Canons Park Synagogue
- Rabbi Shlomo Odze, Associate Rabbi, South Hampstead United Synagogue and Vice Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
- Rabbi Alan Mann
- Rabbi Rodney Mariner, former Rabbi, Belsize Square Synagogue
- Rabbi David Mason, Rabbi at Muswell Hill Synagogue and Executive Member, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
- Rabbi David Mitchell, West London Synagogue
- Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue
- Rabbi Rene Pfertzel, Kingston Liberal Synagogue
- Rabbi Hershel Rader, Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation
- Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, Maidenhead Synagogue
- Rabbi Michael Rosenfeld-Schueler, Jewish Chaplain, University of Oxford & Oxford Brookes
- Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, Past Chair of the Rabbinic Assembly of Reform Judaism
- Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue
- Rabbi Dr J Shindler, Executive Director, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue
- Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, Mill Hill Synagogue
- Rabbi Irit Shillor, Harlow Jewish Community
- Rabbi Yitzchok Sufrin, Enfield & Winchmore Hill United Synagogue
- Rabbi Lee M Sunderland, Romford & District Synagogue
- Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick, Convenor of the Beit Din, The Movement for Reform Judaism
- Rabbi Roni Tabick, New Stoke Newington Synagogue
- Rabbi Sam Taylor, Community Rabbi, Western Marble Arch Synagogue
- Rabbi Pete Tobias, The Liberal Synagogue Elstree
- Rabbi Alexander Tsykin, Jewish Chaplain, Bristol and Western Region
- Rabbi Dr Martin van den Bergh, Childwall Hebrew Congregation
- Dayan Elimelech Vanzetta, Rabbi, Ahavas Yisrael
- Rabbi Charles Wallach, Bournemouth Reform Synagogue
- Rabbi Chaim Weiner, Director of Masorti Europe and European Masorti Bet Din
- Rabbi Roderick Young, former Principal Rabbi, Finchley Reform Synagogue
- Rabbi Dr Andrea Zanardo, Brighton and Hove Reform Synagogue