Confusion over pro-Corbyn letter ‘from strictly-Orthodox rabbis’

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Confusion over pro-Corbyn letter ‘from strictly-Orthodox rabbis’

Doubt cast on authenticity of declaration of support for Labour leader, reportedly sent from 29 rabbis

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

A row has broken out in Stamford Hill over the authenticity of a letter posted in synagogues before Rosh Hashanah, purporting to have been signed by leading rabbis in the area.

The letter, translated by the blogger If You Tickle Us, who lives in the neighbourhood, says it is “an open letter from leading Orthodox Jewish community leaders in the UK”, and publicly dissociates the strictly Orthodox community from recent attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The letter says the rabbis were “shocked to hear that there are those who are spreading reports that the Jews in Britain are united against the head of the Labour Party…They have also publicised that as a result Jews are considering leaving the land of England [Britain] out of concern that he may be elected as prime minister. We therefore publicise our views that we are in no way associated with these aforementioned irresponsible activities”.

The 29 signatories, led by Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, the principal rabbinic authority of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, (UOHC) declare that “God forbid, we would never consider antagonising political leaders”.

The letter, whose signatories include other members of the UOHC, has been seized on by hard-line supporters of Jeremy Corbyn as “proof” that attacks on him by mainstream rabbis and Jewish organisations are not representative of the entire Jewish community. Its contents were triumphantly reported by the far-left website, Skwawkbox.

The letter tweeted out by ‘True Torah Jews’

But doubt was cast on whether the letter was genuine by the Jewish Community Council of North London (JCC) who denounced it as “fake”; and the UOHC itself said the letter had not gone out in its name.

It appears, however, that the letter may well be authentic and the row over its appearance is part of an ongoing “turf war” within Stamford Hill as to who has overall authority in the community. One insider, who asked not to be named, said the rabbis probably had signed but that they had not done so officially. “If anything, they are naive”, the insider said. Certainly the translator, If You Tickle Us, is convinced that it is a genuine letter, and says he has met one of the signatories who has assured him of its authenticity.

The letter was posted in Stamford Hill shuls in the week before Rosh Hashanah. On Monday, the first day of the festival, the latest boundary change recommendations for England and Wales were published, showing that Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North seat would be abolished and a new seat of Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington would be created, taking several wards from the existing constituency of Hackney North, currently held by Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott.

If the boundary changes do go through then what the strictly Orthodox rabbis of Stamford Hill may have a serious impact on Jeremy Corbyn’s political future.

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