Laura Janner-Klausner
Laura Janner-Klausner

There is no Chief Whip in the Jewish community

Growing up with a father who was an MP, envelopes would arrive weekly containing instructions from the Chief Whip.

The instructions came in the form of the title of the Parliamentary debate accompanied by long, thick black lines – the “whip”.

Anything which was less important would have a single line, more critical votes would have two lines.

The most vital of all was the Three Line Whip, three black lines – you had no choice but to be there to vote with your party.

The Chief Whip would ensure everyone was aware and acted on what was in the collective interest.

In the Jewish community, there is no Chief Whip.

Our community is not one sided. There is no Jewish Whip because we are a community of diverse opinions, of debate.

The very idea that there exists a Jewish way to vote is, to me, totally at odds with the vibrant spectrum of opinion in any Jewish space in this country.

Some believe that Jews should be corralled around one united political opinion as dissent might weaken us and how were seen. The midrash teaches that God made every single person from the same mould, yet every person comes out unique.

We are all moulded by our experiences as part of the same community, but emerge with divergent opinions, with unique thoughts and contributions to offer.

This difference serves our community, it raises us up and makes us a kehillah kedoshah – a holy community.

It is then only right that there is no such thing as a way Jews must vote.

Politics change very quickly. At some points, Labour has been named as good for the Jews.

At other times, the Conservatives have held the same moniker.

Many Jews say it is only logical to vote Labour, as they believe in the values and because of the array of Jewish candidates from the Jewish Labour Movement they are putting forward.

These are often people who have been fighting for our community within the Labour party.

Equally, many Jews say it is only logical to vote Conservative, because of concerns over the Labour leadership and the behaviour towards the Jewish community and Israel demonstrated by some of the membership.

As the Talmud teaches, Eilu v’eilu” – “these and these, both of these are valid, both of these are reasonable decisions to have come to as a Jewish voter in the rapidly approaching election.

Whatever persuasion we may hold, we know there are wonderful Members of Parliament from both sides who are exceptional advocates for the Jewish community and for Israel.

If we collectively choose as Jews to align ourselves with only one party, to have a Jewish Vote, if we choose to adopt a Jewish Three Line Whip to tell us what the Jewish vote must be, we lose the possibility to of strengthening wonderful allies across the political spectrum, those who care about our community and do stellar work in protecting us.

A Jewish Vote is not just disingenuous, against the idea of debate which is in our intellectual and communal DNA, it would be both bad for the Jewsand bad for Britain.

There can be no one Jewish way to vote, no Jewish Three Line Whip. Lets relish voting, relish democracy and relish our political differences.

About the Author
Rabbi Janner-Klausner grew up in London; worked as an educator in Jerusalem for 15 years working with Jews and as dialogue facilitator trainer of Palestinians and Israelis. She is the Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism in the UK.
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