Chief Rabbi Mirvis doesn’t speak for all Jews.

JVL Introduction

Julia Bard of the Jewish Socialists’ Group takes a closer look at Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

“He writes as though Jews are a people apart from everyone else, rather than celebrating our part in the fabric of a wonderfully diverse society, living, working and campaigning alongside and in solidarity with others.”

This article was originally published by The London Economic on Tue 26 Nov 2019. Read the original here.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis doesn’t speak for all Jews.

The Labour and Tory record on racism speaks for itself

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who claims without any basis, to speak for British Jews, has attacked the Labour Party yet again. In a deliberate attempt to undermine the Labour Party’s announcements of wide-ranging strategies to support minorities who have suffered so badly under the Tories, and using terminology that has historically been associated with the extreme right, he claims that “a new poison” has taken hold of the party.

This General Election is a two-way fight. To attack Labour is to promote a Tory Party that has formal links with far-right, openly antisemitic, anti-Islamic, anti-Roma and anti-refugee groups and parties in Europe, such as the Polish Law & Justice Party, Victor Orbán in Hungary, the Sweden Democrats and others.

Our own Conservative party is led by a person who unashamedly and unapologetically uses racist and homophobic language. He has referred to black people as “piccanninies with water melon smiles”, to Muslim women as resembling “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”. He has ridiculed gay men as “bum boys in tank tops”. And the Tory Party in government has inflicted untold damage on the lives and futures of members of minority communities through the Hostile Environment and the Windrush scandal.

Mirvis is not a neutral commentator: he is a close friend of the previous Conservative Prime Minister, who he invited for dinner with her husband the night before she took office. Though he claims to be challenging racism, he has never, to my knowledge, joined Jewish anti-racists on demonstrations alongside other vulnerable groups challenging the frightening rise of all forms of racism, including antisemitism, that we have seen over the last few years.

He writes as though Jews are a people apart from everyone else, rather than celebrating our part in the fabric of a wonderfully diverse society, living, working and campaigning alongside and in solidarity with others. Instead of representing the majority of Jews who use and often work in the public services on which we all depend, he throws in his lot with the Tories who have wreaked such destruction on our NHS, our schools, our welfare system and the infrastructure of our country.

He has not been elected by anyone. He represents one branch of religious Judaism – Britain’s 62 Orthodox synagogues. He does not speak for Jews who are more religious or less religious than him, or not religious at all. Many thousands of us are members and supporters of the Labour Party precisely because of its determination to heal the rifts that have been created by an increasingly extreme Conservative Party. Labour’s politics are predicated on the need to encourage, respect and value everyone, and particularly to support black and minority ethnic people, who have to navigate a system that demoralises and undermines them throughout their lives.

At the launch of its Race & Faith Manifesto today, Jeremy Corbyn said that the Party would strengthen protection for religious communities and amend the law to include attacks on places of worship (synagogues, temples, mosques and churches) as a specific aggravated offence.

And he reiterated the principle that there was no place for the evil of antisemitism anywhere. The entire Race & Faith Manifesto is testament to Labour’s determination to pull down the barriers and tackle inequality so that everyone, whatever their ethnic, religious, social or economic background, has a chance to live a decent life and fulfil their potential. Rabbis are supposed to be teachers and moral leaders and most of us would expect them to support such life-affirming human values.

Julia Bard is a journalist, Labour Party member, and on the editorial committee of Jewish Socialist.

Comments (13)

  • Jonny Bancroft says:

    Jeremy Corbyn has always associated with those who wish to kill Jews worldwide like Hamas and Hizballah.
    He called them “ FRIENDS”

  • RH says:

    I hadn’t noticed Rabbi Mirvis noticeably distancing himself from the persecution and killing of Palestinians in their homeland. But seems to have time to make statements cuddling up to Boris Johnson whilst condemning a noted opponent of discrimination and violence.. Some massive hypocrisy here, methinks?

    … and Welby (of rapid ecclesiastical ascent) ? Say no more.

    Two not very impressive examples of pulpit cant.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Just came across the following in my inbox:

    Rabbinical Executive of United European Jews write to Jeremy Corbyn dismissing UK media commentary as ‘propaganda’

    https://politicsandinsights.org/2019/11/27/united-european-jews-rabbinical-executive-write-to-jeremy-corbyn-dismissing-uk-media-commentary-as-propaganda/

    Well being friends Jonny is far, far better than being enemies!

  • John says:

    Mr Corbyn was elected Leader of the Labour Party by 300,000 members.
    How many people “elected” Mr Mirvis?

  • Javier Farje says:

    When socialist Jews like myself were abused and insulted (I was even called ‘kapo’ by one) because they are on the left, where was the Chief Rabbi to defend our right to choose our own political ideals? Nowhere to be seen. He has thrown mud to his post. Shame on him.

  • Gerry Glyde says:

    Jonny Bancroft you will need to give some strong evidence of Corbyn being friends with those who want to kill Jews world wide. Being at a meeting and welcoming speakers to a panel discussion does not constitute either being friends in the manner implied, or endorsing anything they have done.

  • Hector Norris says:

    John, Rabbi Mirvis is Chief Rabbi of The Commonwealth, which gives him a constituency of well over 300,000.

  • Frank Wills says:

    Dear JVL,
    My wife, who is Jewish, and I were preparing to go out to canvass for Labour when we heard the news report on the Rabbi’s comments. We felt it like a body blow and were literally winded – having to sit down for a while before regaining the energy to get back on track. Thank you so much for this background information that helps throw perspective on this situation – and also for the policy statement. We and our children are all Labour Party Members and have decades of participation between us. As so many others have said, none of us have NEVER heard any anti-semitic comments at a Labour meeting and sometimes recently have felt as if we are in some kind of mad, post-Trump reality-shifting world. Thanks for your efforts to pull us all back to some kind of sanity. Best wishes, Frank Wills.

  • graeme braisby says:

    Jonny Bancroft, when you are trying to get people around a table to get them talking you use the language of diplomacy, and my friends is such a phrase, when Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson spar in Parliament they say my right honourable friend, when in actual fact they can’t stand each other.
    Diplomatic language has its place in international discourse because let’s face it, if he said they were murdering terrorist bastards he might not get anywhere! And if you’re going to bring up the IRA too to show he’s a terrorists friend, then you also have to paint others with the same brush, people like the Queen, Barak Obama, Nelson Mandela, the Dali Lhama, the Pope and thousands of others, so please use your brain before opening your mouth, you’re making yourself look idiotic

  • Bennett Grower says:

    The Chief Rabbi does speak for the majority of Jews in the Uk.n Jewish Voice for Labour is a small minority group not affiliated to the Labour Party.Look and read the Jewish Labour Movement which is affiliated to the party ( since 1920) and reflected by far the majority of Jews in the Labour Party.Stop this constant denying of the huge problem we have in the Party. Over 500,000 Jewish votes lost in this election.

  • Gerry Glyde says:

    Bennet, There are some 300 thousand Jewish people in the UK. I undetsand that the Chief Rabbi only represents a certain sector of that group of around 40 thousand people. Did the Chief Rabbi take a vote of all 300k of the Jewish population or did he take it upon himself to effectively say, ‘vote conservative’

    You state there is a ‘huge problem we have in the Party’. Can you let us have your evidence for that claim. Statements such as, ‘it is obvious’ or ‘listen to Mrs Hodge’, or ‘Luciana Berger was forced out of the party’, does not count as evidence. It is heresay or opinion.

    Evidence is needed.

    ps the JLM was redundant for decades it only relaunched itself as a direct response to the success of the BDS movement and the loss of the UCU Tribunal claim by Mr Fraser

  • Philip Ward says:

    Bennett Grower:
    1) There is no evidence the Jewish Labour Movement represents the majority of Jews in the Labour Party.
    2) You don’t have to identify as Jewish to be in the Jewish Labour Movement, or in the Labour Party, but you do have to be a Zionist:
    https://www.jewishlabour.uk/what_is_the_jewish_labour_movement
    3) The JLM is not campaigning for a Labour Government in this election:
    https://www.jewishlabour.uk/general_election_statement_2019
    4) It’s impossible for Labour to have lost 500,000 Jewish votes in this election. There are probably fewer than 400,000 Jews in the UK and some of them are too young to vote. Only about 20% of those Jews who voted voted Labour in 2015. I reckon that might be 40,000 maximum. The person who is reputed to have “lost the Jewish vote” is the (self-hating?) Jew Ed Miliband:
    https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/04/how-ed-miliband-lost-the-jewish-vote/
    I think the only factually correct statement in your comment is that JVL is a small minority group not affiliated to the Labour Party. It has never claimed to be anything other than that.

  • Steve says:

    Dear Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis,
    I have a “long standing friend” and would welcome your advice on whether to continue my friendship?
    As a “long standing friend” I always thought we had similar interests, outlooks on life and morals but over time I have come to doubt my judgement.
    For several years now I have noticed a disturbing trend and I have become very concerned.
    It all started when my “long-standing friend” was sacked for “fabricating quotes” in a national newspaper article. Some people even accused him of lying.
    He also stated that homosexuals are “tank top bum boys” and classed same sex marriage as “three men and a dog”
    He called black people “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles”.
    Regarding women, he recommends voting Tory because “your wife will have bigger Breasts. He also said, to one of his successors “just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way”
    He has also said “Muslim women look like letter box’s” and “bank robbers”.
    It has been suggested that he even lied to the Queen recently too?
    Due to the insurmountable evidence that my “long-standing friend” is a misogynist, homophobic racist who lies often, I have a question. Should I continue my friendship or do I apply the same moral standards and just overlook them?
    Regards
    Steve

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