‘A slap in the face’ – Orthodox Jews ask Khan not to attend BoD dinner during protest

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London mayor Sadiq Khan

As the SKWAWKBOX revealed last month, representatives of London’s large Charedi (Orthodox) Jewish community plan to stage a protest outside the annual dinner of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD). Charedi Jews represent over twenty percent of the UK’s Jewish population and many feel aggrieved that the BoD, in which they have no say, claims to speak on behalf of the UK’s Jewish people.

The BoD responded by trying to pressure members of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) – the London-based group whose rabbis recently issued a letter in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – to abandon the planned protest. The rabbis’ letter was attacked as fake, but those accusations were eventually exposed as the letter’s authenticity was proven.

Now a new letter has been sent by Charedi representatives – this time to London mayor Sadiq Khan, asking him to respect their protest by not attending the BoD dinner, at which he is scheduled to be the guest of honour. The letter goes so far as to tell Khan it will be a ‘slap in the face’ to their community if he goes ahead with his planned attendance – and may cost him their support:

The Mayor of London should not attend Annual Dinner of the BoD due to Chareidi Jews’ protest

Dear Mayor Khan,

We write to you today to explain why you should cancel your engagement to attend the Annual Dinner of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. We shall be staging a protest outside the Dinner, in order to make our position known.

The BoD claims to represent the interests of all British Jews, however, this is most assuredly not the case. Because the BoD only represent voters who are affiliated to synagogues, they cannot truthfully claim to represent the majority of British Jews. In reality, they represent only around 20% of British Jews. The remaining 80% of Jews, a large proportion of which is made up by the Chareidi Jews, do not consider that their views are represented by the BoD. As you will probably know, there are 67,000 Chareidi Jews in Britain, with 45,000 of these living in London.

We urge you not to attend the Dinner, as this would be showing your support for what is, essentially, a group of fringe noise makers. We would also like to point out that you have never attended a Chareidi event and will most certainly lose our support if you do choose to attend the BoD Dinner.

In the Cazenove ward of Hackney, we recently supported 3 labour candidates to election, taking 3 seats that had been in Liberal Democrat hands for 24 years. This is just one example of how our community supports politicians who work for our good. If you attend the BoD Dinner, we would be unable to offer our support in your position as Mayor.

One example of how the BoD is disenfranchising our community is their stance on education. With 3 out of every 4 children in Jewish schools being Chareidi, these are strongholds of our tradition and of vital importance to us. The BoD is colluding (in all likelihood illegally) with Ofsted to destroy our community. We have a QC opinion in our possession confirming this.

Attending the BoD Dinner would be slap in the face to the Chareidi Jewish community. By attending, you would be drawing a red line and losing the support of the 45,000 Chareidi Jews of London. If you show your support for those who seek to destroy our community, we could never vote for you.

We fervently hope that you will reconsider attending the Annual Dinner of the BoD and instead show your support for the majority of British Jews.

Shraga Stern
On Behalf of Charedi Jewish community

However, it appears Mr Khan is unmoved. The mayor’s spokesperson responded to the SKWAWKBOX’s enquiry:

Sadiq was honoured to be asked to speak at the Board of Deputies dinner and is looking forward to attending. Our religious communities make a huge contribution to all aspects of life in our city and the Mayor is always keen to listen the many and varied views within different communities, address their concerns and support their hopes for the future.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

The Charedi letter puts Sadiq Khan in a difficult position, of course. But it also highlights the extent to which the UK’s Jewish community – and a couple of organisations that claim to speak for them – have been misrepresented to the public.

The Jewish community does not have a single opinion, nor does any organisation speak on behalf of all of them – and attempts to portray otherwise are themselves arguably antisemitic.

Will the Mayor of London acknowledge this and take the grievance of his Charedi constituents seriously?

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  1. There is evidence to show that you are only welcome by certain people within the Labour Party if you are from the Zionist persuasion.

    If anything is damaging Labour at the moment, it is not antisemitism it is Zionism and if Sadiq Khan continues to kneel at the feet of those who are trying to destroy Jeremy Corbyn as Leader, he should be opposed and ostracised by all true Socialists.

      1. I think it’s bigger than just supporting Israel, it is supporting modern British/western led imperialism of which Israel is a crucial part.

  2. DIfficult one for Khan. Who should he support RW Israel supporting BoD who are trying to destroy the current Labour Party or large percentage of Jews who will support Labour?
    Seriously; another one damaging the Labour Party by prioritising support for Israel Apartheid State over the needs of his community and country.

  3. Not wishing to be cynical but he been invited to many Chareidi events? Perhaps the letter could have been a little more encouraging if it had included an invitation?

  4. Brilliant manoeuvre by the Chareidi,any possibility this will make the MSM? Like Mr McNiven loved”fringe noise makers ” a great put down.

  5. Sadiq Khan he’s part of the problem just another blairite tory in a red tie

  6. It is a difficult one as Sadiq is probably frightened they will turn on him. I noticed the Jewish Chronical published an article attacking Ed Milliband for not getting involved with all the anti-semitism stuff in the party. I don’t blame Ed for keeping his head down as he has was attacked in a similar manner to Corbyn for his support of the Palestine.

      1. Maria, if he doesn’t he shouldn’t be a member. We are a domocratic SOCIALIST Party.

  7. Wow! A brilliant letter from the Charedi who like other diverse Jewish citizens are fighting for the Right to be Themselves and to not let a conservative minority impose one dominant narrative on all – total and uncritical support for Israel.
    Khan shows himself to be just another bourgeois politician and I would rather vote for a left wing democratic socialist Labour candidate for London Mayor!
    Justice 4 Palestibians & Peace 2 All in the Region!

  8. I find it hard not to feel uncomfortable on this one. The unelected BOD deserve to be dismissed by Shraga Stern as “fringe noise makers” but I do worry about the implications of refusing an invitation, simply because, for good or bad, they are supposed to represent 20% of the Jewish community, who probably (I don’t now what their collective viewpoint is, or even if they have one) shouldn’t be dismissed.

    I can’t imagine what SK will have to say in his speech, given recent events. It turns my blood cold just thinking about it. He should have seen this coming, challenged their behaviour and met with them, when the time was right.

    1. Think my final comment is probably naive and being too kind to SK – it’s just that the dilemma here about loyalty to the constituents one is supposed to represent, versus loyalty to one’s party. Probably no conflict for SK though.

    1. The BoD have tried to cloak themselves in an aura of respectability when in fact they are cheer leaders for the racist apartheid State of Israel. Why would any self respecting Socialist want to have anything to do with them? Should SK also go to a dinner with the EDL if invited?

  9. I’m happy about this because Sadiq Khan rose to fame off of the backs of Corbyn supporters who campaigned tirelessly on Khan’s behalf.

    Khan, who became London Mayor because of their work then proceeded to use his platform to publicly criticise Corbyn.

    Sadiq Khan is a careerist.

    1. Agreed , careerist and opportunist, which ever way gives him an advance in his ambitions. Shallow hollow man happy to piggy back on the hard work of Corbyn activists.

    2. Ella (and others) you have prompted me to refresh my memory about Khan and in fact I wasn’t fully aware of the extent to which he has abused his position with his malicious and very ill judged comments on Corbyn and Livingstone.

      Looking at his record then, it’s no surprise that he will still attend the BOD event. The fact that he, therefore, won’t be welcome at any Charedi event was presumably perceived as being of no great consequence, both by the Charedi group and by Khan. Power to Shraga Stern for the courageous stand that he and the UOHC have taken on behalf of JC and the LP and also for their historic and long standing opposition to Zionism.

      If Khan was genuine about his commitment to “the many and varied views within different communities” I would have expected his office to come up with something a lot more engaged and supportive than this casual and apparently dismissive response.

      So much for my initial unease about the principle of being receptive to the 20% synagogue attenders whose views may, or may not, be represented by the bonkers BOD.

      I do have some residual unease though, about getting embroiled in factional issues. I would like to know a bit more about some of the other issues that Shraga Stern refers to, e.g schools and educational practice. I worry that LP values and these other issues may find themselves at odds with one another. I’ve tried JVL for a clearer picture, but to date there has been no comment on their site.

  10. “One example of how the BoD is disenfranchising our community is their stance on education. With 3 out of every 4 children in Jewish schools being Chareidi, these are strongholds of our tradition and of vital importance to us. The BoD is colluding (in all likelihood illegally) with Ofsted to destroy our community. We have a QC opinion in our possession confirming this.”

    This is a serious point that should not be ignored as in the standard PR nonsense from Khan’s spokesperson.

    The question is does Khan really support minorities, culture, religious rights and traditions or just a smaller politicised minority who make the most political and media noise? Personally I doubt it… he has his career advancement mapped out and like so many in PLP has no interest in fighting for what is right.

    BoD is only powerful because self serving establishment politicians such as Khan refuse to stand up to them when they claim to represent all British Jews when it is clear they do not.

    1. Maria, full support for your very succinct comments on Khan’s positioning with regards to minority groupings.

  11. I find it astonishing that sections of the “left” are so keen to support these ultra-orthodox religious reactionaries just because they’re anti-Zionist. Faith Schools Anonymous describes their practices thus:

    “The Charedi community, sometimes also known as the Ultra Orthodox Jewish or Hassidic community, practices strict observation of Jewish law and doctrine. The education in the 35 or so Charedi schools is focussed almost entirely on study of the Torah and Talmud, with very little education in what are referred to as ‘secular’ subjects such as English or Maths and almost no opportunity to experience or engage with wider society. The majority of Charedi schools in the UK are private, though there are a small number of state-funded schools, and, despite recent efforts to clamp down on the problem, there are also a significant number of illegal, unregistered schools which espouse a highly conservative and isolationist ideology, particularly catering for boys over 13 (who have had their bar mitzvah). Charedi schools are frequently creationist, homophobic, and forbid social media, and have strict dress codes.”

    1. It’s not ‘endorsing’. Just as fighting against Islamaphobia is not endorsing Islam. The context is important and in this case it’s the guise of antisemitism being used to attack Jeremy Corbyn and destroy any chance of a Socialist government.

    2. Jim D, I’ve expressed my own unease about some of the underpinnings/cultural issues and unresolved conflicts that may lie within that letter, but I would like to be better informed, before forming any judgement about those issues.

      Meanwhile, Ella’s comment is spot on, isn’t it? We should be very grateful indeed, humbled even, by the support that they are giving.

  12. The deeper I look into this and discover related themes the murkier and degenerate it becomes. Regards all.

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