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.
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.
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