Senior rabbi takes unprecedented step of writing to urge congregants to vote tactically against Labour

November 1, 2019 by  
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British Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain has taken the unprecedented step of writing to his congregation urging them to vote for whatever political party stands the best chance of beating Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour candidates in the forthcoming general election.

Exclusive report from Lee Harpin, The Jewish Chronicle, UK

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain wrote to 823 families in his shul (Photo: Getty Images)

The Maidenhead synagogue minister revealed he had sent the letter to 823 families who are members of the Berkshire shul across 16 different constituencies suggesting that “a Corbyn-led government would pose a danger to Jewish life as we know it.”

Rabbi Romain – author of The Jews of England and former chair of the Movement for Reform Judaism –said he had decided to send out the letter on Wednesday evening despite receiving a negative reaction from rabbinic colleagues who had said he should not be party political.

He argued that more direct action was needed ahead of the December 12 General Election – a move he said was part of Jewish values.

His letter is a departure from an understanding that rabbis should not suggest to people how they should vote.

When the election was announced, the Board of Deputies said it would be producing its “Jewish manifesto” as it does for every poll but stressed: “As always, we will make no recommendation on how individual Jews should vote, as we trust that members of our community are fully able to make for themselves the decision about which parties and candidates best represent their interests.”

In his letter, Rabbi Romain wrote: “I should stress that the problem is not the Labour Party itself, which has a long record of fighting discrimination and prejudice, but the problem is Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn-led Labour, has at best, let antisemitism arise within its ranks, or at worst, has encouraged it.

“This has never happened under any previous Labour leader, whether under Tony Blair on the right, Neil Kinnock in the centre or Michael Foot on the left, so the finger of responsibility really does seem to point to Jeremy Corbyn.

“I am therefore suggesting we should each put aside all other considerations and vote for whichever party is most likely to defeat Labour in whatever constituency we are in – even if we would never normally vote for that party.”

Pointedly, the rabbi suggested to shul members: “If you, too, think that a Corbyn-led government would pose a danger to Jewish life as we know it…whether it be utterances that cause Jews to feel victimised, less secure and no longer at ease…or maybe even legislation that restricts Jewish life or relations with Israel in some way, then you may wish to vote to ensure Labour does not gain your local seat.

“Do not discount the power of your vote – many seats are won or lost on small majorities – while the issue of Brexit means that very different voting patterns will probably take place compared to previous elections…so do not assume that a safe Labour seat will remain Labour, or that Labour might not win a seat that previously looked safe for another party.”

Rabbi Romain also referred to last year’s Jewish Chronicle front page which warned Mr Corbyn’s party represented an “existential threat” to British Jewry, along with warning from Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader and the on-going investigation into the parry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

Read Rabbi Romain’s letter in full

I am writing to all members of the community regarding the forthcoming election. 

In past elections, never have I dreamt of suggesting which way one should vote.

This election is different.

You may recall the ground-breaking decision of all three Jewish newspapers – The Jewish ChronicleThe Jewish News and The Jewish Telegraph – to publish exactly the same front cover on 25th July 2018: taking a united stance to suggest that a Labour government under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn would prove “an existential threat” to British Jewry.

You may recall the Deputy Leader of Labour, Tom Watson saying he was “ashamed” of Labour being guilty of racism, or the fact that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are currently investigating accusations of racism against Labour, the first time they have done so against a political party since their enquiry into the British National Party.

You may recall the Labour MP of 49 years, Louise Ellman, resigning in October 2019, because, as she put it: “Labour is no longer a safe place for Jews and Corbyn is a danger to the country”.

These are just a handful of examples from the last three years that make me feel that normal political allegiances are superseded by the unprecedented situation we face.

I should stress that the problem is not the Labour Party itself, which has a long record of fighting discrimination and prejudice, but the problem is Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn-led Labour, has, at best, let anti-semitism arise within its ranks, or at worst, has encouraged it. 

This has never happened under any previous Labour leader, whether under Tony Blair on the right, Neil Kinnock in the centre or Michael Foot on the left, so the finger of responsibility really does seem to point to Jeremy Corbyn

I am therefore suggesting we should each put aside all other considerations and vote for whichever party is most likely to defeat Labour in whatever constituency we are in – even if we would never normally vote for that party.

If you, too, think that a Corbyn-led government would pose a danger to Jewish life as we know it…whether it be utterances that cause Jews to feel victimised, less secure and no longer at ease…or maybe even legislation that restricts Jewish life or relations with Israel in some way, then you may wish to vote to ensure Labour does not gain your local seat.

Do not discount the power of your vote – many seats are won or lost on small majorities – while the issue of Brexit means that very different voting patterns will probably take place compared to previous elections…so do not assume that a safe Labour seat will remain Labour, or that Labour might not win a seat that previously looked safe for another party.

Please feel free to share this with any family, friend or colleagues you think might feel the same.

Let me repeat that this is suggestion I would not normally make but for the Corbyn-factor – and you are at liberty to disagree totally with my point of view. I appreciate, too, that you may feel that other criteria take priority when voting. You should vote as your conscience dictates.

..while if you wish to discuss this with me, feel free to do so.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE

Maidenhead Synagogue

Comments

One Response to “Senior rabbi takes unprecedented step of writing to urge congregants to vote tactically against Labour”
  1. Liat Kirby says:

    A bold step to take, Rabbi Romain. I commend you for it. There’s a time to speak out and that time is now.

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