Senior UK rabbi ‘duped’ into signing letter backing Jeremy Corbyn

Rabbi Ephraim Padwa’s family say letter seemed ‘very suspicious’ and cast doubt the leader wrote it.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews stand in a street in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Stamford Hill in the UK (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews stand in a street in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Stamford Hill in the UK
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Stamford Hill-based Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) has charged that its head, Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, was duped into writing a letter that endorsed UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Last night, the letter, typed up in Yiddish with the words “public statement” at the top, caused a stir on social media with Corbynites cheering the move.
The UOHC represents some 35,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews in the UK.
The letter was initially published by a far-left blog known as Skwawkbox, which staunchly supports Corbyn and vehemently attacks those who criticize him.
At the bottom, it also looked as if it had been officially signed and stamped by Padwa. In the letter, the rabbi stated that “We were shocked to learn about those who are disseminating rumors and blaming the leader of the Labour party Mr. Jeremy Corbyn that he is an antisemite and so forth.
“We therefore proclaim our view that we have no connection whatsoever with these irresponsible actions,” it read.
Following its release, an email from UOHC president Rabbi Dovid Frand to other UOHC leaders was leaked onto social media claiming that the letter was a forgery.
“Please inform the Executive that a poster/letter dealing with forthcoming elections in this country with heading ‘Giluy Daas’ [public statement] and allegedly signed by the Rov [Padwa] is a forgery,” Frand wrote in the leaked email, using the Ashkenazi term for an esteemed rabbi. “This has been confirmed to me by the Rov’s son, Rav Leibish Padwa.”
However, controversy over the letter still reigned after The Jewish Chronicle reported the UOHC as saying that Padwa, who is in poor health, was deceived into signing the pro-Corbyn letter that “has now been twisted into an endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn.”
Asked about the matter, the UOHC confirmed this in a statement to The Jerusalem Post.
“It is truly shocking that a few irresponsible hotheads would seek to take advantage of the Rov’s current poor health by deceiving him into signing a letter that has now been twisted into an endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn and circulated widely.
“The Rov’s position is clear in that he does not involve himself in such partisan political matters. This has always been the mesorah [tradition] of the Rov and indeed of the Rov’s late father,” the Jewish body said.
Padwa’s nephew Akiva also told the Post that “the letter looks very suspicious,” and made it clear that his uncle hasn’t been well or cognitively sound.
“It was not on his own personal letterhead or that of the UOHC,” he said. “Letters written by him are usually handwritten or on official letterheads.”
Akiva added that the stamp and signature could have been easily superimposed onto the letter.
Asked if it was possible that his uncle had signed it, he said that “anything is possible” but that it “doesn’t look right” because of the style.
“There’s also a good chance it was not written by him,” Akiva stressed.
He said that his uncle has written “crazy political letters in the past” and that these letters had been handwritten or on official letterheads.
“It’s also not his typeset or style and the wording is written like a committee should sign it – it’s not personal,” he said, adding that it looked like a “last minute decision” so whoever did this just put his name on.
Akiva explained that there are also anti-Israel Jewish members of the Stamford Hill community, “broadly speaking the Neturei Karta/Satmar” sects, who stir-up these sentiments because they identify with Corbyn.
He concluded that he would “cast doubts” on the reliability of the letter.