Did you see the letter supposedly written by the Orthodox Rabbis supporting Jeremy Corbyn? This week has been full of drama. It started on Monday, when the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote a scathing article about Jeremy Corbyn, claiming he is ‘not fit’ for high office. The Chief Rabbi was supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and British Hindu leaders. The timing could not have been more problematic for the Labour Party. The article came as they prepared to launch their ‘race and faith manifesto’. Instead of a positive news cycle, the headlines were telling the story of Labour’s total failure on the antisemitism issue.
The situation did not get any better. On Tuesday morning, Corbyn was late for the launch of the manifesto. The reason? An anti-Corbyn demonstration by British Jews was taking place. Worse still, three vans had parked outside the venue displaying billboards about Labour’s failure to deal with antisemitism. Corbyn’s team did not want him to be filmed walking past such a demonstration, so they held him back. Eventually, as neither the demonstration nor billboards left, they had to send Corbyn in anyway. A few minutes before he arrived a few loud and large pro-Corbyn activists appeared – clearly a damage limitation rent-a-mob – and there was a scrum as he made his way to the venue.
Tuesday night saw the car-crash interview of the decade. Andrew Neil destroyed Jeremy Corbyn in 30 excruciating minutes. The interview was littered with not-to-be-missed disaster moments. Jeremy Corbyn and his election campaign were on the ropes. Corbyn’s activists needed some ammunition to deflect the tsunami of criticism.
The Orthodox letter arrives
Suddenly and without warning a pro-Corbyn letter emerged. It was apparently written by a group of ultra-orthodox Rabbis presenting themselves as a group called ‘United European Jews’. The letter condemned the words of the Chief Rabbi. It was dated 26th November, signed by a Rabbi Mayer Weinberger and it carried a letterhead with several other Rabbi’s listed.
The pro-Corbyn machinery sprang to life. Jewish Voice for Labour, Socialist voice, the Canary and Skwawkbox all pushed the letter. JVL’s tweet alone had over 1000 retweets. Official Labour outlets such as ‘Southgate Labour’ retweeted it. The letter went viral. In just one day, Jewish advocacy groups on Facebook had to delete 1000s of repetitive posts, placed by Corbyn activists who wanted to argue that Chief Rabbi Marvis is a Tory, doesn’t represent many Jews and it is all one big media smear. Suddenly everyone was an expert in the divisions of the Jewish community.
I soon realised there was not one letter, but two. Both from the same building but written with different addresses. One said it was number 10 Dominion House, the other number 14. Both carried the same phone number.
The ‘award winning’ Politics and Insight blog was one of the first to run the piece – in an article written by Kitty S Jones (using the letter from 10 Dominion House). It would be interesting to know how much Kitty Jones knows about the ultra-orthodox Jewish community that she felt comfortable writing a piece attacking the Chief Rabbi. Skwawkbox ran with the letter from number 14. Canary also ran with the number 14 letter. The Twitter account ‘Socialist Voice’ which has the earliest post I could find on the letter (10am on the 27th) used the letter from number 10.
The letter only had one signature. Rabbi Mayer Weinberger – and after a quick search I realised he lived in Belgium. Wanting to find out more, I called the phone number listed in the letter. It didn’t take long to discover the number was not real. I was now looking at a letter from a Rabbi in Belgium that contained a fake phone number that was being used by Corbyn’s online army to attack British Jews.
Locating the address via Google Maps was easy and it seemed to be a small doorway next to a Grodzinsky bakery in Stamford Hill. I posted these findings online and the message went out there were serious problems with the letter. I wanted to check some of the other names in the letter, but either intentionally or not the names of the other Rabbis were not written in full. The whole thing was off. Many Haredi families are extended and there can be numerous Rabbis, in the same area, with the same surname.
The Canary responds
When the Canary realised my fact-check had exposed issues with the letter – they updated their article. Then they updated it again publishing the letter ‘with new contact details’. The only thing they did is publish the same letter, without the fake phone number. The writer at the Canary dealing with this story is Cornwall based Emily Apple. Her title at the Canary is ‘Investigations Editor’. She investigated so well, she didn’t even call the number on the letter to verify it.
This bogus organisation
Dave at the blogsite ‘Israellycool’ went through the list of Rabbis in an attempt to identify them. He made some comparisons with a previous letter this group had written and some other information available from the mother-ship – the notorious anti-Zionist group ‘True Torah Jews’. It is worthwhile reading the informative tale of what he found.
The organisation’s website was only purchased on March 29 2019. The administrative and technical contacts are both in the US, and are the same company that handle the American ‘True Torah Jews‘. The website states it was formally natruna.eu, which is the website of True Torah Jews in Europe. The HQ for Nutruna was listed as Belgium. In the same city as the lone Rabbi who signed this latest pro-Corbyn letter.
The November letter is the first update the website (United European Jews) has had in six months. The website was purchased just ten days before the groups very first public act – on April 9th 2019 – which unsurprisingly was a letter supporting Jeremy Corbyn. This recent letter is the third of its type, as the first landed in September 2018. The first soon ran into trouble because it pretended to be something it wasn’t. Many of those listed in the letter as signees had no knowledge of the letter itself. Clearly the organiser(s) has (have) learnt their lesson. The last two letters appeared under a new organisational name and only had one signature attached to them.
The group is inactive. The only thing it seems to do is write letters every six months in support of Jeremy Corbyn.
Inside 91 Dunsmure Road
To dig deeper I physically went to the address on the letter. I arrived at the Stamford Hill address accompanied by Simon Cobbs from Sussex Friends of Israel. We reached a closed door, which had a list of occupied offices. None of them listed the group ‘United European Jews’.
We rang the buzzer for both number 10 and number 14. Nobody answered. As luck would have it, a man carrying a carpet walked out – they are doing large-scale renovations inside – so we took the opportunity to enter the building. We made our way to number 10, or we would have done had it existed. It appears the renovations have expanded the building – so where number 10 used to be is just a new passageway. We reached a landing with unit 11, a sign towards units 7-9 and another from 12-16. There was no number 10.
We made our way to number 14. There was no sign on the door. We knocked – no answer.
Talking to the Orthodox Jews in Stamford Hill
There were signs of life in other offices – so we made our way around. All of the people we encountered were orthodox. The conversations were enlightening. The first person said that they had never heard of the group ‘United European Jews’. He told us number 14 was not an office for a united orthodox Jewish group but rather a ‘ladies underwear business’.
We spoke to a man who knew about the letter. He also told he had heard it was ‘a fake’. He said that the group had nothing to do with the building and informed us that the *community* was outraged. There was more. He said the landlord was furious his address appears on the letter. He went on and said the people responsible should be ‘strung up by their feet’. One told us they had been discussing the letter in an online group with friends and was aware contact had been made with at least one of the Rabbis mentioned in the letter – who insisted he had never seen the letter, never signed it and even joked about having never heard of ‘Corbyn’.
A really friendly young orthodox man who runs his own business from the building told us that some of the names on the letter were real, but they were just cobbled together to be used as propaganda and said ‘they had done it before’. He told us the frustrated landlord had asked him ‘what he could do about it’.
None of these people supported the letter. They all expressed concerns about antisemitism. They were all horrified their voice was being appropriated and misrepresented.
We met one or two who were unsure who we were, but we felt no hostility from anyone we spoke to. One orthodox man told us that is it ‘a shame we cannot pinpoint who is responsible. We as a community – orthodox Jewry are furious‘. He went on to say that ‘it is crazy and he can imagine Jews in general are incensed.’ One told us they are ‘trying to turn Jew against Jew‘. The message was uniform.
Some said they thought they knew who was responsible. A name we heard on three separate occasions was an orthodox friend of Jeremy Corbyn, called ‘Shraga Stern’.
The Orthodox Rabbis letter is a fake
The letter was circulated with a fake phone number and apparently two fake addresses. The only signature is not even British. The Canary, Skwawkbox and all of those that published it – did so without performing the most rudimentary of checks. They published it because they could use it to attack British Jews. As confirmed by our new orthodox friends, the names on the letter may be real but it is equally certain that there was no meeting of the Rabbis to discuss it. It is probably fair to say most were completely unaware the letter was being sent out.
In other words – whatever the grain of real truth behind it – the letter is not what it says it is. It is a fake.
United European Jews and the propaganda problem
There is no mention of ‘United European Jews’ on Twitter at all between the last letter they wrote in April and the current letter turning up on November 27. Not one mention.
The letter went viral. It was signed by only one Rabbi, who does not live in the UK. The telephone number did not work. The addresses were apparently fake. Which leads to one burning question. Those pro-Corbyn news sites, like the Canary and Skwawkbox, how did they verify the letter before they used it to attack the Chief Rabbi? They certainly did not phone or visit the office. It took me 5 minutes to realise there were two separate letters and another 30 seconds to make a phone call.
These news outlets also didn’t speak to any of the many community members who are clearly angry at having their voice appropriated and misused in this manner. The community is insular and wants to be left alone. Whoever is misusing, misrepresenting and appropriating the voice of Orthodox Jews is performing a vile antisemitic act.
The Orthodox and Shraga Stern
Which brings us to Shraga Stern. I have no solid evidence to tie Shraga to the letter. He is the name that was put forward by several of those we spoke to. Those who mentioned him really do not like him. Shraga is an activist who deeply opposes LGBT education in charedi schools. He joined in solidarity at the Birmingham school protests. Shraga recently met Corbyn and Corbyn faced criticism for it – but they appear to have a need for each other. Diane Abbot met him more recently and also faced criticism. Earlier this year he called a senior Stamford Hill Rabbi a ‘Kapo’ for signalling willingness to talk to authorities about LGBT education.
So it seems more than a coincidence that it was his name that was raised by the occupants of Dunsmure Road. I actually saw Shraga on 26th November. He was at the Labour Party Faith event and hurried out. This is an image of him leaving the venue:
It seems Shraga Stern was associating with Corbyn’s team in the morning of the 26th. He is there as Corbyn is delayed by the protests. Shraga Stern sees the billboards. He then appears to leave the event in a hurry. Later that day a letter is written – which is signed by one lone Rabbi in Belgium. Don’t write this off. It is known Stern helped to organise the original letter in October of last year. The alternative to this scenario is that with Corbyn held up because of the protest, with the headlines all about antisemitism and with Corbyn’s name in the gutter, Jeremy Corbyn’s team met with Shraga Stern but did not discuss ways to help him. Even though last year he helped to organise such a letter.
Did Corbyn’s team asked for it? This would not be new. Recently, Diane Abbott’s office ‘solicited’ a letter of support from Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations. The letter was sent to support Abbot against accusations of antisemitism put forward by a leading Stamford Hill Rabbi. The same Rabbi that Shraga Stern called a ‘Kapo’.
Given the amount of disinformation in the latest letter – the possible impact on the election – and the fact it became a viral attack on Jews – there is perhaps cause for an official body to take a closer look.
Not over yet
The propaganda exercise is not over yet. Yesterday Skwawkbox began circulating a story that death threats have been made against the Belgian Rabbi. The death threats may be true. There are many sick people online and everyone who places themselves in the public eye, this author included, receives abuse and threats. It is also true that if they were sent, they may even have come from parts of the orthodox community who are furious with him. It is also possible they are about as real as the letter was.
What is factual is that Skwawkbox and the other Corbynista fake news sites are deliberately launching attacks on British Jews. The upsurge has been horrific. Just scanning the replies to the Chief Rabbi’s Facebook post is a sickening exercise. Every Jew who has a presence online has seen the abuse levels rise. Jewish people who have never been affected before, have deactivated their social media accounts and expressed a desire to leave the UK for Israel. The election will be over soon. Those responsible for these attacks against the Jewish community must be held to account.
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