Orthodox union u-turns to support maligned activist

Shraga Stern, whose highlighting of Charedi Jews’ views led to smears against him

In a striking u-turn, an Orthodox Jewish umbrella body representing Charedi Orthodox Jewish communities in the UK has announced its support for Charedi activist Shraga Stern.

Mr Stern had come under attack after helping to organise a letter signed by thirty-four UOHC rabbis in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and had organised a protest to be staged outside the annual dinner of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) in November, where London mayor Sadiq Khan will be guest of honour.

The Jewish Chronicle had announced that the UOHC (Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations) had ‘distanced itself’ from Mr Stern, going so far as to quote one Stamford Hill source labelling Stern ‘a dreadful self-publicist’ and quoting UOHC president Rabbi Frand calling Stern a “single individual purporting to speak for the Charedi community and seeking to disrupt the Mayor of London’s presence at the upcoming Board dinner…without any authority“.

But now the UOHC president and his organisation have issued a strong statement of praise and support for Stern’s efforts and has underlined the Charedi community’s separation from the BoD, as Stern’s associate related in a public statement:

In an astonishing about-turn, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations – the umbrella body representing Charedi Orthodox Jewish communities in the UK – has formally signalled its support for the Charedi activist Shraga Stern.

In a Declaration [below] issued on 18 October 2018, the Union declared that it had never been its intention to deny or contradict the “good deeds” that Shraga Stern was performing for the benefit of the Charedi communities, and that it publicly recognised his “generous dedication.”

Shraga Stern, the Stamford Hill-based head of a construction company, had publicly challenged the democratic legitimacy of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, from which the Union resigned in 1971, and had threatened to organise a public demonstration against the Board’s forthcoming annual dinner, at which the principal guest is to be London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Mr Stern had said that the Board of Deputies only represented a minority of British Jews and that the Deputies are “fringe noisemakers” and do not reflect the views of charedi communities in the UK. In particular, Mr Stern had pointed out that in its dealings with Ofsted the Board was failing to articulate the serious reservations of Orthodox Jews.

In his Declaration Rabbi Frand recalls how the Union left the Board in 1971, and has signalled the Union’s confidence in Mr Stern and in his “good deeds.”

It is now understood that Shraga Stern will not be organising a demonstration outside the Board’s annual dinner.

uohc stern.png
The UOHC statement in Hebrew characters

The translated statement reads:

With the help of G_D

Our Esteemed and Honoured Friend Shraga Stern

I wish to clarify that the letter we wrote last week to the Mayor and to the @BoardofDeputies was not intended to deny or contradict your good deeds and your generous dedication to communal welfare

I hope that we can continue working together to increase the honour of Heaven. Amen and may it be His Will.

With Admiration

Dovid Frand, Rosh Hakohol [President ]

NB In any event we have not been affiliated with the BoD for over 40 years in accordance with the guidance of the late Rav Padwa [Chief Rabbi Of UOHC] of blessed memory and our relationship with them is as the Talmudic expression: ‘each to their own’.

The UOHC withdrew its support from the BoD in 1971, in a formal letter of which the SKWAWKBOX obtained a copy:

uohc bod.png

This document highlights the inaccuracy of claims that the BoD is representative of all the UK’s Jewish people. As Stern pointed out in his original public letter, secular Jews have no representation because only participating synagogues elect deputies to the board, while the Charedi community – on track to be the UK’s largest Jewish community within a dozen or so years – severed cooperation with the board 47 years ago.

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  1. On at least four occasions orthodox Jews traveled over from Manchester and up from London to be at the Labour conference to express their support for Jeremy Corbyn and their rejection of Zionism and the BoD. We owe them our gratitude.

  2. Whilst the (cancelled) protest was justified, this moving expression of a developing solidarity, is probably the better result. Support for the UOHC and for Shragar Stern.

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