The Jewish Chronicle reacts to that Jewdas seder

Credit where credit is due. In publishing this article by Charlotte Nichols even the Jewish Chronicle seems to realise the disaster of the Board of Deputies’ attack on Jewdas.

But don’t get carried away. In his JC Comment blog, also reproduced below, the editor of the JC, soon puts us right… They just can’t acknowledge they got anything wrong!

Why Jeremy Corbyn should be applauded for going to the Jewdas Seder

If other groups want to meet the Labour leader to share their concerns, says Charlotte Nichols, they need only do what Jewdas did and invite him.

Charlotte Nichols, Jewish Chronicle
3rd April 2018

I emerged from the now notorious Jewdas Seder half drunk on four cups of wine and half on the joys of spring – my heart full from a really rowdy positive event with friends that drew on the richness of so many minhagim.

Almost immediately my happy bubble was burst, as congregating around the door, a group were huddled around a mobile phone reading with despair an article posted on the right-wing Guido Fawkes website about the event that was posted long before it had even finished.

All because Jeremy Corbyn had accepted an invitation to join us.

It was intended to be a private event. We agreed that we would not take photos and videos, primarily because there were children in attendance who obviously cannot consent to their image being taken, but also because it felt important to experience the Seder as active participants rather than through our screens.

Jeremy’s invitation too, was intended to be a private matter. He attended in a personal capacity, and, importantly, was not there to take a few pictures and leave as so many politicians do when they claim to be “engaging” on any issue.

He was there to listen, to learn, and to participate. He was part of the entire Seder, dramatic re-enactment of the Exodus story, boisterous singing in Yiddish, whipping each other with spring onions – the full works. He even brought along food from his allotment to share, a gesture really welcomed by those in attendance.

A common complaint among young left-wing Jews like myself is that we are often made to feel like we should be apologetic for being Jewish in left spaces, and apologetic for being left-wing in Jewish spaces.

At Jewdas’s recent Purim party, the first time I had been to any of their events or had any engagement with the group, it was the first time I felt I could unashamedly be both.

The group is absolutely merciless in its satire which, yes, sometimes goes too far, but it’s always punching up not down.

Jewdas has also been absolutely steadfast in addressing antisemitism on the left, particularly in pro-Palestine circles, including producing one of the most useful resources around on the distinction between antisemitism and criticism of Israel.

They have raised strategic concerns about the way Labour antisemitism is being addressed and exploited by some, but they have not dismissed it out of hand as a valid issue. In fact, contrary to some reports and grainy out-of-context audio, the only person whose name I heard booed at the Seder was Ken Livingstone.

While some communal bodies lay claim to speaking on behalf of the whole community, as though we are some monolithic bloc that speak with one collective voice, Jewdas is a place for disagreement, debate and where there are very few taboos.

Many of the people involved in Jewdas became so through a failure of too many of our communal spaces to provide a space for young Jewish people to explore complex issues around our faith and gender or queer identities, and our relationship (or lack thereof) with the modern state of Israel.

Those who have attacked Mr Corbyn’s attendance because he’s not speaking to the “right Jewish people” only legitimise Jewdas’s existence. That said, Jewdas does not exist entirely outside of the Jewish mainstream – many people in attendance were fully paid-up synagogue members, active in their communities, and even in the Rabbinate.

All of us are proud of our Judaism, whatever we understand that to mean, and that was what the Seder was a celebration of.

Jeremy accepting an invitation to celebrate a Jewish festival with young Jewish people should be applauded, as part of a wider programme of engagement, learning and reflection on his part.

If other groups want to meet him to share their concerns, they need only do what Jewdas did and invite him

Charlotte Nichols is Young Labour’s Women’s Officer and a member of Manchester Reform Synagogue


What is Jeremy Corbyn telling us when he breaks unleavened bread with Jewdas?

Mr Corbyn’s tone-deaf choice of Seder companions is telling, says JC editor Stephen Pollard

Jewdas is not to my taste. I find its sneering towards anyone it disagrees with objectionable and its sense of moral superiority ludicrous. And the feeling is clearly mutual; last week it described me as a “non-Jew” because I take a different view to it on most issues.

But what I think of Jewdas is of no significance. It doesn’t need my approval nor should it.

And those who support it, even when it calls Israel “a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of”, are – you really don’t need me to say this – as entitled to their view as the rest of us.

In this context, it’s important to recognise that the significance of last night’s revelation that Jeremy Corbyn’s first public engagement with British Jews since last week’s ‘Enough Is Enough’ demonstration was to take part in Jewdas’s ‘third Seder’ has nothing to do with whether Jewdas are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Jews – a revolting concept.

It’s not even anything to do, really, with whether or not Jewdas is a ‘fringe’ organisation. It may well be representative only of itself – but that is to miss the point.

Because the real point is specific and limited – and all the more important for that.

It is that at the very time when Jeremy Corbyn is claiming to be “an ally” in the fight against antisemitism, when he is issuing finely worded statements about his commitment to that fight, the one group he chooses to endorse by his presence just days after the mainstream Jewish community protested about his refusal to take antisemitism seriously is the group that last week issued a statement dismissing the idea that there is any serious issue around antisemitism in the Labour Party.

And which angrily attacked those who are concerned as double-dealers who push smears to attack Corbyn for no reason other than base politics. As they wrote, this is all “the work of cynical manipulations by people whose express loyalty is to the Conservative Party and the right wing of the Labour Party”.

Already, the Corbynites are pushing the idea that this is much ado about nothing. The official line is that he was on a private visit meeting friends in his constituency.

Again, he is entitled to have dinner with whoever he wishes.

But he isn’t just anyone. He is no longer an insignificant backbencher. He is Leader of the Labour Party – at a time when his party is, by his own admission, facing serious questions over antisemitism and its dealings with the Jewish community.

Which means that who he chooses to meet and when he chooses to meet them is and should always be of intense interest and significance. And so his decision to break unleavened bread with a group that has made a loud and angry attack on the mainstream community’s concerns about Labour antisemitism is of deep concern.

The idea that this was just ‘Jeremy’ having a pleasant evening out with friends relies for credibility on him being so catastrophically stupid that he cannot see the significance of his behaviour.

This is of course a pattern to his excuses. He didn’t see. He was unaware. He didn’t know. It’s always variations on that theme, and they are always and obviously sophistry.

Mr Corbyn knew exactly what he was doing last night. And we should draw our own conclusion about his good faith in claiming to be an ally in the fight about antisemitism within his own party.

If you want more and have a strong stomach, try this by Stephen Pollard: The JC Comment Blog No.8: the antisemites stand together. So should we

Comments (4)

  • Mike Scott says:

    As a secular Jew I’m a bit to the side in this argument, but can’t let the jaw-dropping hypocricy of Stephen Pollard go without comment. “I find its sneering towards anyone it disagrees with objectionable and its sense of moral superiority ludicrous”???

    Surely, he must have been looking in the mirror and referring to the JC, the Board of Deputies and himself? When, oh when, will they accept that the many as well as the few are also Jewish?

  • David Taylor Searle says:

    Thanks for this.
    Thanks for the invite/challenge, but I don’t think I need to visit the JC comment blog, right now. The line they have taken generally is highly repetitive and very discriminatory in nature, at least to me personally. It appears to think many things, none of which further the cause of natural acceptance of, not just a persons right to have a life separated in any simple way from their occupation, but for them to show in actions what they seem unable to accept in their minds, that Jeremy Corbyn is, has the right to, and can be a friend to many people and persons, if that is what they themselves desire also. The problem with persons like Lord Sugar etc., is that he, and others of his thinking and actions, unfortunately seem to think and determine we all find his/their views important, relevant and tie us into their standards or lack of them, and all based upon an acceptance of what they pertain to have achieved in the past, and their title awarded, probably by the degenerate T.Blair, to be of any relevance to many others. Friendship, learning and understanding is what we all need to enable progress. What we don’t necessarily need are kings and queens of capitalism to show people “the way”. Persons of his ilk don’t seem to be able to comprehend that not all persons are lemmings and are quite able to look a bit wider and further than the space Lord Sugar takes up in the national media, and their own nationalistic cravings.

  • Jaye says:

    Stephen Pollard’s analysis makes a very valid point:
    “at a time when his party is, by his own admission, facing serious questions over antisemitism and its dealings with the Jewish community ….his decision to break unleavened bread with a group that has made a loud and angry attack on the mainstream community’s concerns about Labour antisemitism is of deep concern.

    • Danny Nicol says:

      …yet talk of a “mainstream community” is misleading. The majority of British Jews may well not be committed to the leadership of the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, in which case they constitute the true mainstream and their views on Labour anti-Semitism along with everything else is likely to be far from monolithic.

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