JVL statement on Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Tuesday was a sad day for British Jews. When we could have been celebrating pledges from the main opposition party to improve protections for faith communities and introduce measures to tackle prejudice, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis hijacked media attention with an article in The Times attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.  Rather than uniting with other victims of rising bigotry to deal with intolerance and hate across society, Rabbi Mirvis set his face against the one party which has the potential for halting right-wing intolerance in its tracks. He stepped beyond the boundaries of his spiritual role by virtually instructing UK citizens on how to cast their votes on December 12. Imagine the outcry if such a pronouncement had come from a Muslim leader.

We believe Rabbi Mirvis has done a great disservice to Jews in Britain. He has pitted us against what millions see rightly as the greatest set of proposals for progressive, anti-austerity, social reform and egalitarianism most of us have ever seen – and yearn for.

Tuesday was the day on which Jeremy Corbyn launched Labour’s Race and Faith Manifesto. In his speech in advance of the launch, Corbyn addressed specific Jewish concerns:

In government, Labour will do everything necessary to guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend the Jewish way of life and the right to live it freely, and to combat rising antisemitism in our country and across Europe.

We will protect the rights of Jewish people to practice their religion and ensure public services meet the needs of Jewish people, from coroners’ services conducting quick burials to proper provision of religious and culturally sensitive social care and youth services.

The Manifesto includes serious measures supportive of UK Jews as well as other ethnic and faith groups:

  • making attacks on places of worship a specific aggravated offence
  • working with social media firms to combat the rise of antisemitism online
  • holding an independent review into the threat of far-right extremism and how it can be tackled
  • reviewing the national curriculum to ensure that children gain a solid understanding of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism and the Holocaust

It is a matter of shame to us all that the message of this important policy statement, from the party which we hope will form the next UK government, has been largely drowned out in the media by Rabbi Mirvis’ intervention. The Manifesto’s positive tenor is utterly at odds with the unfounded negativity of Mirvis’ article in which he alleges that “the poison of antisemitism has taken root in the [Labour] party” and the “soul of the nation” would be at risk if Jeremy Corbyn were to take up residence in No 10 Downing Street.

This is not the first time Rabbi Mirvis has joined the chorus of voices making unfounded allegations against Corbyn, but Tuesday’s attack represented an unprecedented partisan intervention from a chief rabbi, or indeed any faith leader, in a general election. (Mirvis has made no secret of his personal attachment to the Conservative Party.) Furthermore he risks his reputation for probity by repeating accusations whose factual bases have been definitively demolished (though scarcely acknowledged in mainstream media).

Despite his title, the Chief Rabbi can claim to represent less than a third of the 300,000 or so who make up British Jewry – not those many tens of thousands who adhere to the strictly-orthodox Haredi tradition, nor Liberal and Reform Jews nor the 50% of Britain’s Jewish population who are secular in orientation.

UK Jews are full citizens of this country and are impacted as everyone else by government social and economic policies. Yet Rabbi Mirvis’ Times article had nothing at all to say about any of the policy pronouncements in Labour’s comprehensive election manifesto. Nothing about its pledges to conquer child poverty, build a green economy, protect the NHS, renew our schools with a National Education Service, bring crucial services back into public ownership, and more. He is silent also on the impact of racism on Muslims and black people in British society. It is a dereliction of duty.

It is precisely under the Conservative governments since 2010 that all forms of racism have been on the rise, fed in particular by the chaos around Brexit. The Conservatives have given us austerity as an organising principle of government and as a result we have proliferating food banks, people sleeping and dying on our streets, our social care system on its knees, and local council budgets and services decimated.

So, Rabbi Mirvis, which party is threatening the soul of the nation?



Comments (21)

  • Dangerfield says:

    Thank you for this contribution. I have become seriously worried by what appears to be a concerted and thoroughly-planned attack by some of the Jewish community on Jeremy Corbyn personally. To read an alternative view is most welcome.

  • Jacob Butler says:

    “The cloud of hatred and acrimony that this creates must be lifted” said the Chief Rabbi, as he set about creating a cloud of hatred and acrimony, on behalf of the tory party.

  • Clarrie Larkin says:

    Thank you very much for making the situation clear regarding Rabbi Mirvis and the Conservative Party. The part played by the BBC in whipping up the story and giving little or no response from the Labour perspective was significant.

  • Sean Okane says:

    Thank you this helps restore my belief in the goodness of humanity

  • Mary Davies says:

    A brilliant letter from Simon Cohen and a superb statement from JVL.

  • Mike Scott says:

    One of the main problems we face is the failure of the media and commentators generally to understand that Jews are, like every ethnic group, composed of people with the whole range of political beliefs.

    I haven’t heard anyone, right or left, saying that Mirvis is a Tory, so of course he’s going to attack socialism in any way he can. Why do we dare not make such an obvious point? My Grandad was a tailor in an East End sweatshop, exploited by Jewish capitalists – they didn’t care that he was Jewish, only that he was working class.

    On a lighter note – and we can all do with a laugh at the moment – how significant is the fact that Corbyn supports the Arsenal, while Mirvis supports Spurs? Maybe this is actually all about football…..!

  • John Mostyn says:

    Thank you for this statement which as an observer I am really pleased to see. I got into a spat on twitter the other evening supporting Jeremy’s support for people of all faiths in the UK and further afield when I was told that a recent poll amongst Jewish people in the UK found that 87% of them were worried about the impact of a Corbyn led Government on their lives. I’d love to know if this is credible and what their concerns might be as I simply don’t understand. A view from your organisation would be much appreciated as I’d like to respond positively to the person who put this too me.

  • Robin Ellwood says:

    I was deeply shocked that a religious leader would make a statement like this which is not true, and line up his support for a leader that is a known liar and philanderer and whose party has allowed this country to suffer unnecessary austerity to the extent of people having to live and die on our streets .

  • Moses says:

    Thank you so much for writing so truthfully and helping me to regain a little bit if sanity and perspective.

  • Philip Ward says:

    It should also be pointed out that the Archbishop of Canterbury, part of the state apparatus, as the head of the established church, supported Mirvis’s attack on Corbyn and the Labour Party. We should not discount the possibility that other, more sinister, sections of the state ate helping to support this smear campaign against the 500,000 members of the LP. It is almost certain that should Corbyn become prime minister, these forces will be working overtime to get rid of him.

  • Terry Kelly says:

    Rabbi Mirvis has no credibility and has not had any credibility for many years. He is doing damage to Jews and their reputation for kindness and empathy for others, particularly those who are persecuted and poor. The idea of a chief Rabbi having anything in common with Boris Johnson and the Tories is outrageous and goes against Jewish history.

  • David Rosenberg says:

    Excellent statement!

  • John Patterson says:

    It gladdens my heart to read this. Very important that this comes from Jews – and we all know why. It put Welby in a difficult position. He blundered in and set it was a shame Mirvis had been “compelled” to intervene. That was patently untrue. There was no compulsion. We should be ever vigilant but one does not do that by fabricating mountains out of molehills. I normally avoid clichés but the ‘cry wolf’ metaphor is singularly apt. Finkelstein went further. He said that if Labour is defeated, those Jews who lied and exaggerated will be blamed. I am saving this article precisely to counter such reproaches. I hope I won’t need it. I also have a whole page of links of Jews who have spoken up for Corbyn. In the end, I got tired of collecting.

  • John says:

    With regard to the claimed 87 per cent, details of the so-called survey paid for by the so-called Jewish Leadership Council can be found at https://www.survation.com/new-polling-of-british-jews-shows-tensions-remain-strong-between-labour-and-the-british-jewish-community.
    It was based on 757 residents aged 18+ in Great Britain who identify as Jewish. This survey was primarily conducted via telephone; however additional respondents were invited to take part in the survey online. Fieldwork was between 18th February and 15th March 2019.
    As can be seen, the respondents were non-randomised and largely self-selected.
    I have to say the veracity of the survey – now over 8 months old – is highly dubious and wide open to manipulation.
    It seems to me that most of the rabbinate in this country prefer to support a known racist supremacist – Netanyahu – who is currently facing criminal charges in Israel.
    By contrast, the only known brush with the law that Jeremy Corbyn has ever had came about during his one-man protest outside the then apartheid era South African High Commission building near Trafalgar Square.
    What kind of values do these rabbis hold and promote?

  • different frank says:

    Rabbi Mirvis will create real antisemitism.

  • Gill knight says:

    Fantastically measured response. Congratulations

  • Frances Rifkin says:

    I agree totally. Well written, clear and accurate. However, as a leftie, I feel I have to recognise the fear and sorrow – inherited and instrumentalised but actually felt, by a large number of the groupings Mirvis is targetting, and effectively manipulating, whether we like it or not. It’s not easy to face this or actually even see it as it may go against our experience, politics, feelings, history etc. I think that not recognising it is also a form of instrumentalisation.

  • Michael Singer says:

    I despair that as a religious Jew the intolerance and hatred aimed at me, and the invective thrown at me is mostly from commentators on this JVL website.
    I have seldom experienced such intolerance which is very disturbing and sad.
    My work colleagues of all faiths and cultures show me more respect than you lot

    [Can you please explain the “intolerance and hatred aimed at you”? I feel none. No-one I know feels these sentiments. Towards you. All I’m aware of are your sentiments expressed in this comment. Disagreement with you, yes. Even profound disagreement judging from the tone of your comment. But where on earth do you find this hatred you refer to? Genuinely puzzled. – JVL web ed]

  • Kenny Fryde says:

    A matter of shame indeed. This is an excellent statement, my only quibble is the suggestion that Rabbi Mirvis represents “less than a third” of British Jewry – I think the true figure is closer to one seventh.

  • John Palfreyman says:

    All their points are so true….but unfortunately its all too late….the damage is done.
    The timing of this carries all the hallmarks of Lynton Crosby. Just deforestation votes close…and just when Labour’s Race and Discrimi action Policy being published
    How is it that the Jewish community cannot stop this smearing of a decent man .

  • Gerry Glyde says:

    Mr Singer Can you supply copies of any intolerance or hatred towards you on this site with the full citation.

    General non specific comments are not evidence

Comments are now closed.