US ‘Surfing Rabbi’ causes stir by joining far-right march

California state senate candidate and Tea Party activist Rabbi Nachum Shifren attends far-right group's London protest outside Israeli Embassy.

October 26, 2010 06:32
4 minute read.
Rabbi Nachum Shifren at EDL rally

311_rabbi shifren. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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LONDON – California state senate candidate and Tea Party activist Rabbi Nachum Shifren’s communion with the English Defense League has been condemned by Jewish community organizations.

Shifren, known as the ‘Surfing Rabbi,’ joined a march organized by the far-right group outside the Israeli Embassy in London on Sunday.

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The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that the Shifren’s relationship with the EDL is an attempt by the group to play minorities against each other.

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“Regrettably, this result will only embolden extremists at the other end of the spectrum, and particularly the insidious EDL, who want nothing more than to sow fear and mistrust in the hope of attracting greater support,” said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies. “The community should be in no doubt as to who and what lies behind the EDL and their attempts to pitch minorities against each other whilst sanitizing their own radical ideas.

“Rabbi Shifren displays breathtaking naivete and ignorance in associating himself with the EDL, and in the way he characterizes the British Jewish community.

Whatever the dangers of radicalization in the UK, they apply just as much to the Right as to the Left and to Islamism. This is one Tea Party invitation he should decline,” Benjamin said.

Mark Gardiner, director of communications for the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain, said, “The English Defense League’s impact comes from its street muscle, largely comprised of football hooligans.

“This is why EDL seeks mob rule and attacks police as well as random Asians. Yes, British Jews rightly have sincere concerns about the local impact, actions and ideology of extreme Islamist groups, but white street racism is a dangerous beast and it is delusional, immoral and plain counter-productive to shelter amongst such forces.”

Shifren told the 300-strong crowd at Sunday’s demonstration that those who criticize him “don’t have the guts” to take action themselves against the threat of Islamism.

“From the minute I set foot in this country, I’ve had nothing but abuse, and I tell you now, I welcome every single bit of it,” he said.

“To all my Jewish brothers who have called me a Nazi, and have asked why I’m poking my nose into England’s business, I say to them they don’t have the guts to stand up here and take care of business,” he said.

Voicing support for the EDL, which opposes the “spread of Islamism” and marches across the UK against what it labels as Muslim extremism, the rabbi said: “There is only one group in England with moral courage. I wish just one politician had the backbone to stand up and agree, but they’ll never do that because of the Arab petrol dollars...

“In those so-called freedom centers, they plot to destroy and kill us. We’re still waiting for the Muslims to make peace with each other. They eat each other alive, like the dogs that they are,” Shifren said.

“I’m looking at this crowd of people here in the UK, and I can see Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and yes, even Jews, too. We wanted to say to all those liberals who preach multiculturalism, why don’t you go to Saudi Arabia and start there.

“I will not stand by and watch the destruction of both of our countries from within,” he said.

“History will be recorded that on this day, read by our children for eternity, one group lit the spark to liberate us from the oppressors of our two governments and the leftist, fifth column, quisling press, and that it was the EDL which started the liberation of England from evil.

“Today is the first day of the rest of your lives. We shall prevail, we will not let them take over our countries.

We will never surrender to the sword of Islam.”

Fresh from the demonstration at the Israeli Embassy, Shifren and the EDL went on to Speakers Corner in London’s Hyde Park, where he spoke to the assembled crowd.

Following the tradition of Speakers Corner, Shifren engaged in a dialogue with members of the public who opposed his stance.

Moments later, scuffles broke out between EDL members and mainly Muslim men, and tables containing Islamic literature were overturned.

The police moved in and a number of arrests were made.

Shifren, a Southern California native, is running for office in Los Angeles’s Crenshaw district.

At the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, he became a kibbutz volunteer, and in 1977 made aliya. Shifren served in the IDF and received a degree in Combat Fitness Training at the Wingate Institute for Sports.

Shifren attended Toras Chayim Yeshiva in Jerusalem and Yeshivat Tomchei Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, where he received his rabbinical ordination in 1990.

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