Masorti student rabbi keeps job after calling Israeli politicians ‘war criminals’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Masorti student rabbi keeps job after calling Israeli politicians ‘war criminals’

EXCLUSIVE: Mixed reaction from members at New North London Synagogue as internal inquiry finds Rabbi Lara Haft Yom-Tov committed serious misconduct

Some community members viewed Lara Haft Yom-Tov's public apology as inadequate
Some community members viewed Lara Haft Yom-Tov's public apology as inadequate

A student rabbi at the UK’s largest Masorti synagogue is to remain in post despite having been found by an internal inquiry to have committed serious misconduct for describing Israeli politicians as “war criminals”.

Lara Haft Yom-Tov, who asks to be referenced using they/them pronouns, is a community rabbi and Jewish educator at the 3,700-member New North London Synagogue (NNLS) in Finchley.

As reported by Jewish News, Yom-Tov was put under internal investigation for branding Israeli politicians “war criminals who have forced Palestinian families to flee their homes” in ‘Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat‘, part of an alternative Haggadah supplement.

In a message sent to its membership at 1130pm on Saturday, hours before the 9am EGM (extraordinary general meeting) on Sunday, the rabbis, chief executive officers and council of NNLS updated the community on the outcome of Yom-Tov’s disciplinary process.

They said: “We are conscious that lots of people won’t see this ahead of the meeting tomorrow morning so we will start the EGM with this statement. The council has voted unanimously not to dismiss Rabbi Lara. The disciplinary process did, however, lead to a finding of serious misconduct. Rabbi Lara still has the option to appeal the decision. Until this process is concluded, the council, senior leadership, and Rabbis are not able to make further comments on the disciplinary process. Further communications will follow in due course.”

NNLS Senior Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg added that he was “conscious of the deep hurt experienced by many as a result of the publication by Rabbi Lara Haft Yom-Tov’s of an article in a Haggadah supplement. I respect that hurt, especially when felt by those with close ties with the families of hostages, friends and relatives killed or injured, and soldiers risking their lives.

“It is not my role to be detailed; the synagogue has followed its relevant processes and will share its findings as appropriate. I want to remind us of Rabbi Lara’s public apology. I’m aware of Rabbi Lara’s deep personal ties with Israel and with friends wounded both physically and emotionally. I appreciate, alongside many others, the energy Rabbi Lara has bought to the rabbinic team, and value Rabbi Lara’s knowledge and enthusiasm which have inspired lots of people. It is not the Jewish way to ignore such an apology, especially when made in public. Instead, one looks to what follows.”

Acknowledging that he and “all our leadership team bear responsibility and have much to learn” Rabbi Wittenburg asks: “How do we guide and support new rabbis and leaders? How do we ensure that what enters the public domain has been appropriately reviewed by others, without being unjustly censored? How do we teach, in light of our values? How do we hear and heed the different, often contradictory, views among our members, and build strength, rather than divisive discord, out of our diversity?”

The Haggadah reader Hashata Hakha (This Year We Are Here) and Rabbi Lara Haft Yom-Tov

He appears to then ask the community to grant Yom Tov and the ‘teshuvah’, or forgiveness in order to embark on “the path to healing”.

Speaking to Jewish News, NNLS member Simon Eder, whilst unable to publicly comment on the EGM that took place, said: “Student Rabbi Lara’s recent Haggadah article which accused Israeli politicians of war crimes and deliberately instigating famine in Gaza, breaches the very ethos of the community with its commitment to Zionism and quest for truth.

“I just can’t understand how on earth their position is tenable. In the history of Anglo-Jewry no synagogue has been able to retain someone in a position of leadership when faced with such a huge dissenting voice. It is a sign of the times that they do not have the dignity to resign and play out their activist credentials where they would be welcomed”.

“The language that Student Rabbi Lara appropriated in that article draws from extreme anti-Zionist rhetoric, and is not only a distortion of the truth but shows a blatant disregard for the complexities of the region and the challenges faced by Israel.

“What is perhaps worse however, is the way that both the rabbinic and lay leadership have sought to brush the issues arising from the Hagaddah’s publication under the carpet.

“I am aware that there is now a movement of many behind the call for Student Rabbi Lara’s resignation to seek a whole scale overhaul of the synagogue’s governance.”

He adds: “When the rabbinic and lay leadership have distanced themselves from Student Rabbi Lara’s comments, it beggars belief that they are still there as it is these comments which have brought the synagogue and Masorti Judaism into disrepute.

“Student Rabbi Lara might have apologised for their words but they have not and certainly cannot apologise for their many years of association with anti-Zionist organisations. Even within the apology message itself they referred to their active campaigning during their time studying in Israel for open borders, which demonstrates that they do not uphold to the basic tenets of Zionism.

“The leadership just wishes that this will all go away but there are very real concerns that many now have. I have been contacted by several over the past several weeks in complete despair as to what Student Rabbi Lara might share on the subject of Israel while teaching.”

Speaking to Jewish News on condition of anonymity, another member of NNLS said: “Sunday’s EGM was disappointing as it followed a communication late on Saturday evening that Lara Haft would remain in post in spite of serious misconduct, so it seems members’ views were never going to be taken into account in this process.

“I’m appalled she’s still here, it sends a message that the shul isn’t pro-Israel.

“Several members queried the recruitment process and how somebody with an extreme left and activist background could be hired.  The response from the rabbis was staggering: ‘During the process, we asked Lara about her involvement with JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace) and she said she had resigned’.”

On condition of anonymity, a member of NNLS told Jewish News: “’Rabbi Lara is respected and loved by many, especially young people, but equally by members of all ages. Some shul members have been extremely vocal in their criticism but there are hundreds, including myself, who feel very differently. There is a wider spectrum of views on Israel than is perhaps generally acknowledged – at New North London as in the community at large – and this flashpoint is part of a growing current surging through many organisations, and indeed families. For a very large number of us at NNLS, what we care most about is learning to handle challenge and difference in a constructive manner, and strengthening our community in the process”.

Haft Yom-Tov told Jewish News they did not plan “to comment personally but I expect the shul will give you a statement”.

The student rabbi would neither confirm nor deny whether their father-in-law is Nick Gendler, a member of New North London Synagogue and a former co-chair of Masorti Judaism.

Jewish News has contacted NNLS for comment.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: