Five senior Rabbis Quit Unite Faith Workers' Branch in Protest at Len McCluskey and Antisemitism
by Kate Proctor
Cross-posting from The Evening Standard
22 August 2018
Five senior rabbis have today quit Labour’s biggest union backer Unite in protest at boss Len McCluskey’s criticism of Jewish community leaders.
Rabbi David Mitchell of the West London Synagogue said he and his colleagues could no longer remain members of a union whose chief has been “disingenuous” about Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis.
In a letter to the union’s executive delivered last night, the group — who are all part of the Reform and Liberal movements — wrote: “Len McCluskey’s most recent comments about the leadership of the Jewish community are not only unhelpful, but are disingenuous, for in so doing he attempts to rewrite the story of the last six months and plays down the genuine concerns of the majority of the Jewish community, as expressed by our leadership.
“We can no longer remain members of a trade union which has lost control of its leadership, for when a leader writes: ‘I am a leader and I answer to those I represent’, we realise that he no longer means us.”
Unite is the only union in the UK with a faith workers’ branch and represents hundreds of clergy. Rabbi Mitchell, who serves a 3,000-strong congregation at the UK’s flagship Reform synagogue in Marble Arch, said: “Union membership is an essential part of being a rabbi. There’s an incredible Jewish legacy in the trade union movement and to resign from Unite is a really difficult decision.” He added: “I’ve never experienced a trade union getting involved in national politics in terms of anti-Semitism before and that for me is really shocking. Unite’s faith workers chapter should be the natural home of rabbis.”
Mr McCluskey, a close Jeremy Corbyn ally, enraged the Jewish community with a piece for the Huffington Post where he said community leaders had shown “truculent hostility” towards Labour and said they should “dial down the rhetoric” over the anti-Semitism row. He claimed the party had met all the requests of Jewish groups but that they were refusing to engage.
Despite calling for Labour to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism in full — something Mr Corbyn has been reluctant to do — his outburst sparked outrage.
A Unite spokesperson said: “Unite is actively committed to fighting anti-Semitism and racism. We hope that the rabbis take up Mr McCluskey’s offer to meet and discuss their concerns.”
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