There are many Jewish communities in “the Jewish community”

Shraga Stern, whose highlighting of Charedi Jews’ views led to smears against him

JVL Introduction

The rift between the Board of Deputies and the Charedi Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations is coming increasingly into public view.

The tensions are great, as are those between the Board of Deputies of British Jews and a substantial number of secular and liberal Jews. This calls into question – yet again – the Board’s claim to speak in the name of all Jews.

We reproduce here two new articles published by Skwawkbox.

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Orthodox union u-turns to support maligned activist

In a striking u-turn, an Orthodox Jewish umbrella body representing Charedi Orthodox Jewish communities in the UK has announced its support for Charedi activist Shraga Stern.

Mr Stern had come under attack after helping to organise a letter signed by thirty-four UOHC rabbis in support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and had organised a protest to be staged outside the annual dinner of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) in November, where London mayor Sadiq Khan will be guest of honour.

The Jewish Chronicle had announced that the UOHC (Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations) had ‘distanced itself’ from Mr Stern, going so far as to quote one Stamford Hill source labelling Stern ‘a dreadful self-publicist’ and quoting UOHC president Rabbi Frand calling Stern a “single individual purporting to speak for the Charedi community and seeking to disrupt the Mayor of London’s presence at the upcoming Board dinner…without any authority“.

But now the UOHC president and his organisation have issued a strong statement of praise and support for Stern’s efforts and has underlined the Charedi community’s separation from the BoD, as Stern’s associate Geoffrey Alderman related in a public statement:

In an astonishing about-turn, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations – the umbrella body representing Charedi Orthodox Jewish communities in the UK – has formally signalled its support for the Charedi activist Shraga Stern.

In a Declaration [below] issued on 18 October 2018, the Union declared that it had never been its intention to deny or contradict the “good deeds” that Shraga Stern was performing for the benefit of the Charedi communities, and that it publicly recognised his “generous dedication.”

Shraga Stern, the Stamford Hill-based head of a construction company, had publicly challenged the democratic legitimacy of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, from which the Union resigned in 1971, and had threatened to organise a public demonstration against the Board’s forthcoming annual dinner, at which the principal guest is to be London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Mr Stern had said that the Board of Deputies only represented a minority of British Jews and that the Deputies are “fringe noisemakers” and do not reflect the views of charedi communities in the UK. In particular, Mr Stern had pointed out that in its dealings with Ofsted the Board was failing to articulate the serious reservations of Orthodox Jews.

In his Declaration Rabbi Frand recalls how the Union left the Board in 1971, and has signalled the Union’s confidence in Mr Stern and in his “good deeds.”

It is now understood that Shraga Stern will not be organising a demonstration outside the Board’s annual dinner.

Statement by the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, the umbrella body representing Charedi Orthodox Jewish communities in the UK

The translated statement reads:

With the help of G_D

Our Esteemed and Honoured Friend Shraga Stern

I wish to clarify that the letter we wrote last week to the Mayor and to the @BoardofDeputies was not intended to deny or contradict your good deeds and your generous dedication to communal welfare

I hope that we can continue working together to increase the honour of Heaven. Amen and may it be His Will.

With Admiration

Dovid Frand, Rosh Hakohol [President ]

NB In any event we have not been affiliated with the BoD for over 40 years in accordance with the guidance of the late Rav Padwa [Chief Rabbi Of UOHC] of blessed memory and our relationship with them is as the Talmudic expression: ‘each to their own’.

The UOHC withdrew its support from the BoD in 1971, in a formal letter of which the SKWAWKBOX obtained a copy:

This document highlights the inaccuracy of claims that the BoD is representative of all the UK’s Jewish people. As Stern pointed out in his original public letter, secular Jews have no representation because only participating synagogues elect deputies to the board, while the Charedi community – on track to be the UK’s largest Jewish community within a dozen or so years – severed cooperation with the board 47 years ago.

‘Anti-BoD’ flyers posted in Stamford Hill synagogues

24 october 2018

Recent months have raised awareness of unhappiness among Charedi Orthodox Jews about the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD), an organisation that has been presented as representative of the UK’s Jewish community.

That claim has been publicly challenged by Charedim in London, in particular by a letter published by 34 leading rabbis of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) supporting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The BoD has been prominent in accusations of ‘Labour antisemitism’.

The media portrayed the letter as fake, but had to climb down when its authenticity was proven – at least some media outlets had sat on evidence of its authenticity until forced by events to reveal it.

Orthodox Jews have also been dissatisfied with the perceived failure of the BoD to respect Orthodox views on education issues – and now a pair of highly critical flyers have appeared in Charedi synagogues in the London Charedi heartland of Stamford Hill .

The flyers consist of two documents, both of which suggest a wish to underline the separation between Charedim and the BoD – a copy of the 1971 letter from the UOHC chief rabbi withdrawing the UOHC from participation in the BoD and one of a letter published in the Jewish Chronicle accusing the BoD of blocking attempts to rescue Jewish refugees during the second World War:

padwa lettersh flyer1

A Charedi resident of Stamford Hill told the SKWAWKBOX:

This was hung in all Charedi synagogues in Stamford Hill for shabes and all over town. I don’t know who is in the back of this, but there is something grassroots happening here against the BoD.

BoD President Marie van der Zyl has been asked for comment.

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