As the contest for Labour Party leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn got under way this week, hundreds of Jews have joined the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) in order to have a say in the race.
JLM membership rose to more than 3,000, the highest it’s been for a decade. (Before World War II, the group had tens of thousands of members.) The membership surge came after an appeal last week from ousted Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth.
Jewish voters’ favorite for party leader is probably MP Jess Phillips, a Labour Friends of Israel member and a Jewish Labour Movement supporter. Phillips, who supported Luciana Berger in her fight against anti-Semitism in Labour, told a recent Limmud conference that she grew up in a Jewish area of Birmingham. “I had loads of Jewish friends. My mum was always worried that when we brought Jewish friends home, they’d be upset when she cooked bacon,” she said.
She told The Times last weekend, “Anyone who commits anti-Semitism or any racial or sexual assault within the Labour Party should be suspended immediately. I don’t know why there’s an appeals process needed when there is hard evidence.”
Corbynite candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey has had recent meetings with the JLM, but she failed to impress at a meeting with Manchester’s Zionist Central Council and the Jewish Representative Council shortly after her election to the Salford seat in 2015.
She was unaware of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and was a member of the Labour Friends of Palestine. She promised at the meeting to join the Labour Friends of Israel, but never did so.
Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, has a mixed record on Jewish issues. In 2018, he urged the Labour Party to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, but the year before he invited members of the anti-Israel Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association to Parliament.
Candidates Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis want to sort out the anti-Semitism problem in Labour but are bitter critics of Israel. Lisa Nandy chairs Labour Friends of Palestine.
Leeds East MP Richard Burgon, who is standing for the position of Labour deputy leader, has been slammed for saying in 2014 that “Zionism is the enemy of peace.”
Former Jewish Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman demanded that Burgon “make an absolute apology and total withdrawal of those comments before he could be considered a credible candidate.”
Fellow deputy leader candidate Angela Rayner apologized in 2018 for calling “seminal” an anti-Zionist book by Norman Finkelstein.
Leeds Applies For Its First Eruv
More than 200 years since its founding, the Leeds Jewish community is applying for its first eruv.
Hilton Lorie, Etz Chaim Synagogue’s representative at Leeds Eruv Ltd, told The Jewish Press that the community hopes to attract young Orthodox families who can no longer afford to live in London.
With the fairly recent establishment of a community kollel and Jewish high school in the city, religious life is expanding, he said (even though the Jewish community’s numbers have fallen dramatically since their peak in the 1970s).
“We think that an eruv would be the final piece in the jigsaw to be able to proactively champion Leeds as a destination to attract more shomrei Shabbat people,” he said.
He added, “Leeds is a booming city, with lots of good jobs and reasonable accommodation. London is getting more and more difficult for young people. We are already seeing young people who have gone to London and have come back to Leeds. We think that by having an eruv, that could only accelerate. It would be a very positive move. It is part of our community development strategy.”
Leeds Eruv Ltd has submitted a planning application to its local council and is confident that it will be accepted. “It is not a new thing for British local authorities. There are quite a lot of eruvim. Councils are not wary of them,” Lorie said.
Blanche Abrahams, who has lived in Leeds all her life, told The Jewish Press, “We’ve wanted it for a long time. We just got an e-mail saying we should write letters. I’ll have to do that.”
Group Splinters Off From London Board for Shechita
London’s Federation of Synagogues is pulling out from the London Board for Shechita.
The move coincides with the former Gateshead rav, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, taking up his appointment as av beis din of the Federation.
In 2015, the Federation launched a mehadrin meat label to appeal to a more charedi clientele.
The London Board for Shechita and the Federation said they would “continue to liaise on all areas of mutual interest and do not anticipate any disruption to the supply of kosher meat within the UK.”