Political debate is brewing in several constituencies with large Jewish populations in advance of the December 12 elections. In Manchester’s Bury South, for example, many Jews are debating whether to vote for Ivan Lewis, who is running as an independent after leaving the Labor Party, or his opponent.
Conservative councillor David Silbiger wrote in the North Manchester Circular: “I understand some in the kehilla feel a sense of gratitude to Ivan Lewis for his years of service, however, independents do not win seats in the House of Commons and only attract a small number of votes.
“By all means,” he wrote, “send him a nice note thanking him for his efforts, but wasting your vote is not a sensible way of showing gratitude. Only a vote for Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party will ensure our kehillah continues to enjoy religious freedoms in our country.”
Lewis, however, told the Jewish Press, “For 22 years, it has been a privilege to represent my hometown in Parliament. Throughout this time, I have been a strong voice for our community. In these turbulent times, this strong, local voice has never been more important.”
He said he represents “the best hope of defeating Labour and halting Corbyn in his tracks.”
He added, “Mr Silbiger is right that religious freedom must be protected. So why is it on the Conservatives’ watch that Ofsted is being allowed to wage war on Jewish schools, Conservative MPs are seeking to undermine shechita in Parliament, and benefits are at risk for large families?”
In Leeds North East, Jewish voters are faced with a choice of Jewish Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, a Corbynite who criticized his fellow Jews for being “hysterical” over Labour anti-Semitism, and Conservative candidate Amjad Bashir who has been suspended from his party for anti-Israel remarks.
(Bashir’s suspension came last week, too late for his candidature to be withdrawn. However, his campaign manager, Councillor Dan Cohen, a governor of Leeds Jewish Free School, stood down after his suspension.)
Blanche Abrahams, who lives in the constituency, told The Jewish Press, “It’s a very difficult situation. We always thought Hamilton was our friend. Now, it’s like a betrayal.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Jon Hannah told the Jewish Chronicle, “The anti-Semitism we have seen from Labour and now the Conservatives is abhorrent.”
Rabbi Mirvis Makes The Front Pages
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was the leading news item in all major British media on Tuesday after warning in The Times that “the soul of the nation is at stake” in Great Britain’s upcoming election.
He wrote, “Convention dictates that the Chief Rabbi stays well away from politics – and rightly so. However, challenging racism is not a matter of politics.” He argued, “A new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour Party.
“Many members of the Jewish community can hardly believe that this is the same party that they called their political home for more than a century. It can no longer claim to be the party of equality and anti-racism.”
Charedi Activist Calls JLM Anti-Semitic
Anti-LGBT education campaigner Shraga Stern has accused the Jewish Labour Movement of being anti-Semitic.
JLM criticized Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott for posting a picture of herself with Stern and Rabbi Herschel Gluck, whom she described as “community leaders.” JLM national organizer Rebecca Filer asked: “Why is Diane Abbott openly meeting with Shraga Stern who’s been leading a homophobic campaign…?”
Stern told the Jewish Press that calling him homophobic “because of [his] religious beliefs is surely anti-Semitic.”
New Organ Donation Laws Lead to Conflicting Advice
British rabbinical authorities are divided in how to respond to new laws on organ donation that require British citizens to “opt out” rather than “opt in.”
Last week, Manchester dayanim Gavriel Krausz and Osher Westheim and Dayan Y.Y. Lichtenstein of the Federation Beth Din instructed people to opt out of the organ donation register.
The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, however, has stated that while clarifying one’s position on organ donation is “advantageous,” people should not be alarmed. It said, “The NHS guidance and practices are clear that no donation can be considered without engaging the family to ascertain the most recent wish of the deceased.”
It reassured the public that community activists are “in constant contact with the relevant authorities and are clear there is no risk to the tzibbur.”
Rabbi Avrohom Pinter of UOHC said, “People are reading into new legislation and seeing things that are not there. They are creating fears. People are worried about going into hospital, which is unnecessary. The situation is not that different from years ago. But it is advantageous to opt out.”
Muslim Woman Defends Jewish Family
A Muslim woman defended a Jewish family against a man reading passages from the New Testament to them on the London Underground on Friday. The incident was captured on camera by journalist Chris Atkins.