Shraga Stern is a prominent Charedi (Orthodox) Jewish activist in London who was one of the organisers of a letter from twenty-nine leading Orthodox rabbis in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The letter went viral last week, triggering an immediate attack on its credibility in the pro-Israel media and by the Labour right, with the Jewish Chronicle and other outlets claiming that the letter had been confirmed as a fake. The letter was authentic and some of the media quietly amended their stories, without publishing formal corrections. Some are still propagating the false claim that it is a fake.
London, UK. 4th September, 2018. Orthodox Haredi Jews from Neturei Karta join supporters of Jeremy Corbyn from Jewish Voice for Labour, Momentum and other groups campaigning outside the headquarters of the Labour Party on the day on which the party NEC was expected to adopt the IHRA definition and examples of anti-Semitism.
Mr Stern has issued a strongly-worded statement, addressed to the Jewish Chronicle, in which he attacks the ‘zionist agenda’ behind the ‘smear and witch-hunt’ against Jeremy Corbyn – an idea outlandish to many secular Britons but put on the official record last week in the US when former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort admitted to the FBI that he had ‘concocted‘ a similar smear with an Israeli official against a Ukrainian politician for political purposes.
Stern’s letter also contests claims by the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and Board of Deputies (BoD) to represent the mainstream of Jewish opinion in the UK and the claims that antisemitism in the Labour Party is widespread.
The Jewish Chronicle does not appear to have published the letter.
We believe that the anti-Semitism smear and witch hunt against Jeremy Corbyn is a Zionist agenda and has all the footprints leading to that direction. It is being promoted by the Board of Deputies and by the self-made unelected JLC, who are a well-known pro-Israel bodies- and it’s completely cruel and unjustified.
The Board of Deputies and JLC do not represent Charedi Jews, who do not have voting rights at BoD elections and number today over fifty thousand in the UK, of which 30,000 live in Stamford Hill. According to a 2007 study by Dr Markov Wise at the University of Manchester, almost three out of every four Jewish births in the UK – home to the largest strictly Orthodox community in Europe – are in the Charedi community.
The strange thing here is that they are 263,000 Jews living in UK according to the 2011 census. Half of them do not belong to a synagogue according to BoD population statistics, so this half would not have voting rights in the BoD elections.
Add this up with 50,000 Charedi Jews it equals 181,000 out of 263,000 who will not fall under the BoD and the BoD do not represent them. So how on earth can the BoD have the chutzpah to say they represent the Jews in UK? BoD is a pro-Israel body and only represent a very particular part of Jews who are pro-Israel.
Chareidi Jews and most mainstream Jews in the UK are only interested in Anglo Jewry matters and do not get involved in Israel politics. However saying this we do recognise that real anti-Semitism is an issue all over the country and in all political parties. We are convinced that Jeremy Corbyn is doing his best to tackle real anti-Semitism in his party while still giving his people of his party freedom of speech to criticize Israel.
However, we are nowhere near to fleeing this country because of this. As a Charedi Jew I can say that Charedi Jews are the most vulnerable to anti-Semitic attacks as they dress differently and one can see that they are Jewish, therefore this support letter from leading Charedi rabbis from Stamford Hill including Chief Rabbi Padwa from the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) says it all.
Jeremy is a long friend and neighbour of the Charedi community here and everyone who knows him personally says that he loves Jews and is against real anti-Semitism, and this is what he has done all his life.
Times have changed and we will not stop here. We will not be hijacked by the BoD and JLC. We will go further then this to make it clear to all the government bodies and to the press, not to fall into the trap of the BoD and JLC who are extremist Zionist bodies and do not represent mainstream Jews.
Discussions are now taking place that I’m personally aware of and talks are in place on considering setting up a new body of Board of Deputies of mainstream British Jews that will focus only on anglo-jewish matters and will represent the entire Jewish population no matter if they are associated to a BoD synagogue or not and act for the many Jews not the few.
A 2015 Guardian article quotes studies for the Institute of Jewish Policy Research showing that a majority of UK Jews will be from the Charedi community by the 2030s.
The Board of Deputies was not reachable for comment. The JLC has been contacted.
At the beginning of this week, the SKWAWKBOX contacted the Jewish Chronicle (JC) to ask why it hadn’t published a text from an Orthodox Jewish group confirming that a Corbyn-supporting letter by leading Charedi (Orthodox) rabbis was genuine and that this blog would be publishing it shortly.
The JC had quietly rowed back from claims last week that the letter published by the SKWAWKBOX was fake, but had not published the definitive evidence that it was authentic. Minutes after the SKWAWKBOX’s email was sent, the JC published an article about the text.
On the same day, this blog published a letter from a prominent Charedi activist calling Corbyn a “long friend to our community” and condemning the “smear and witch hunt” against him, which the Chronicle had declined to print.
But today, the Chronicle – which was one of three papers to print a front-page claim that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was an ‘existential threat’ to the UK’s Jewish people – has again been forced to amend its narrative by an article published by the SKWAWKBOX.
Early today, this blog revealed that Charedi Jews are planning a substantial protest outside the annual dinner of the Board of Deputies (BoD) in November because they disapprove the BoD’s claims to represent the views of British Jews when it does not speak for them and they have no say in its elections or pronouncements.
Hours later, the JC has had to follow suit:
For months and even years, the BoD and a handful of other right-leaning organisations have been backed by the Establishment media and the Labour right in their claim to be the only authentic representatives of our Jewish citizens.
But at last the existence of fifty thousand Charedi Jews – almost a fifth of the UK’s Jewish population and expected to represent over half within fifteen years – who are overwhelmingly in disagreement with the BoD and similar organisations on matters concerning Israel and other political issues, is being acknowledged in the media narrative thanks to their resoluteness.
Will the BBC and other mainstream media now follow suit and finally end their dismissiveness toward Orthodox Jews and their opinions – and will they stop misleading the public?