Sir Keir Starmer, who has Jewish members in his family, was voted Labour leader on Saturday.
Upon his appointment, he vowed to “tear out the poison” of anti-Semitism. He said he would judge his success as party leader “by the return of Jewish members” to it.
He has already written to the Board of Deputies, apologizing for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and offering to hold a video conference with leaders from the BoD, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust, and the Jewish Labour Movement.
BoD president Marie van der Zyl responded, “We will now work with him…to draw a line under this awful period in Labour’s history.”
Dayan Westheim Passes Away from the Coronavirus
Dayan Osher Westheim passed away from the coronavirus late last week. He is one of now 115 British Jews who have passed away from the disease.
Dayan Osher Westheim was born in Gateshead in 1948 and joined the Manchester Beth Din in 1976. In 2004, he left the beis din to form his own kashrut authority, Badatz Igud Harabbonim.
Dayan Westheim was machmir when it came to kashrut, but often meikel in other areas. Dr. Sandi Mann, chair of Manchester’s Jewish Action for Mental Health, told The Jewish Press, “Since 2014, Dayan Westheim became my go-to rav for shaalot I had with clients from the frum community…. He always erred on the side of halachic leniency in a compassionate way that never failed to alleviate the suffering of my clients.”
Manchester-born Rabbi Zevi Saunders, who received semicha from the dayan, told The Jewish Press, “Dayan Westheim took me under his wing and taught me so much. He taught me that to be a rabbi, one needs to find a lenient way where possible. He knew halacha so well, he would astound me with his inner knowledge.”
Among other recent victims of the coronavirus is Rabbi Uri Ashkenazi of the Stanislaver shtiebel in Stamford Hill, and philanthropist Irving Carter.
Doctor: Large Gatherings Explain High Fatality Rate Among Jews
Purim seudot and other community gatherings could have contributed to the high proportion of Jews dying of coronavirus, according to an Orthodox former professor of immunopathology.
Professor David Katz, executive chairman of the Jewish Medical Association, told the Jewish Press, “There were well-publicized large social and religious gatherings in the UK Jewish community, up to and including the first three and a half weeks of March, some coinciding with the festival of Purim…which promoted the virus.”
He noted, “In the initial stage of the UK epidemic, there were many Jews who died – vastly in excess of roughly 0.5 percent, which is the accepted percentage in this country.”
At one point, Jewish deaths from coronavirus amounted to six percent of the total.
He said Jews may have also passed away in higher numbers because of the large family size among charedim, the Jewish “emphasis on communal activity,” large weddings and the average age of British Jews, which is higher “than rest of the UK population.”
New Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote to BoD president Marie van der Zyl, “I have been saddened to learn of the particularly high death rate in the Jewish community. Please be assured of my sympathy and solidarity at this time and if there is anything the Labour Party can do to help, please let us know.”