Ed Miliband’s J-Team

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

HE IS the first to ad­mit he is not a re­li­gious man, but there have un­doubt­edly been Jewish in­flu­ences that have steered Ed Miliband’s pol­i­tics and ide­ol­ogy. And they are grow­ing.

The Labour leader’s phi­los­o­phy has been shaped partly by Jewish in­tel­lec­tu­als, none more so than his late fa­ther, Ralph, and his deep­en­ing in­ter­est in his fam­ily’s past.

His speech to the Labour Friends of Is­rael last month only men­tioned the word “Jewish” three times. But it was in­fused with hints about how his grow­ing re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity

has shaped his think­ing.

Un­like Gor­don Brown, who was close to Lord Sacks, he does not have a close re­la­tion­ship with the cur­rent Chief Rabbi.

In­stead, it is party sup­port­ers such as tech­nol­ogy chief Jonathan Kesten­baum, en­no­bled un­der his lead­er­ship, who have heav­ily in­flu­enced his un­der­stand­ing of the Jewish world.

It was largely the peer’s ef­forts that en­sured the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil held a pri­vate din­ner with Mr Miliband in Fe­bru­ary, al­low­ing him to rub shoul­ders with the com­mu­nity’s big­gest mach­ers from the worlds of busi­ness, phi­lan­thropy and ed­u­ca­tion.

The LFI speech came on the back of his erev-Pe­sach trip to Is­rael — one of the first ma­jor for­eign trips of his lead­er­ship. He is a man play­ing catch-up on all things Jewish, but he is mak­ing ground quickly.

“It’s al­most like he’s mak­ing up for lost time,” a close friend ad­mit­ted.

His up­bring­ing in north Lon­don’s Prim­rose Hill was bereft of Shabbat din­ners and he did not cel­e­brate his bar­mitz­vah. That has be­come a source of great dis­ap­point­ment to him and he has ad­mit­ted he feels he “missed out” on Jewish youth groups.

The Is­rael trip had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact. At Yad Vashem, Shoah ex­perts cre­ated a spe­cial re­port on the fate of his grand­fa­ther. He was deeply moved.

The Holo­caust story of Ralph Miliband and Mar­ion Kozak continues to have an ef­fect on him and the com­mu­nity’s oc­ca­sion­ally aired be­lief that he falls back on Shoah sto­ries as a type of to­kenism is un­fair, his friend said.

“He gen­uinely cares and wants to learn. I don’t think his Jewish jour­ney ends when he leaves pol­i­tics,” the source ex­plained.

He leans heav­ily on Liver­pool Wavertree MP Lu­ciana Berger when Jewish is­sues need a re­sponse or state­ment. And Bar­row and Fur­ness MP John Woodcock - not Jewish but a for­mer chair of Labour Friends of Is­rael — is also said to be an­other reg­u­lar source of ad­vice.

For­mer Labour fundraiser Jon Men­del­sohn has also grown closer to the leader since he was en­no­bled last year. He is re­garded as an­other “go-to” Jewish fig­ure in the party.

Lord Kesten­baum’s fel­low peer, Mau­rice Glas­man, de­vised the Blue Labour phi­los­o­phy aimed at win­ning back work­ing-class vot­ers. He pro­posed giv­ing power back to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. Orig­i­nally en­dorsed by Mr Miliband, it was soon dropped and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the men suf­fered.

Ear­lier this month, Lord Glas­man ac­cused Labour of lack­ing di­rec­tion. He ad­vised Mr Miliband to read nov­els rather than think-tank re­ports dur­ing the sum­mer break.

Iron­i­cally, it is in his ap­proach to be­ing Jewish that Mr Miliband is most no­tice­ably mov­ing away from look­ing “weird”, the cut­ting in­sult aimed at him by crit­ics and shadow cab­i­net mem­bers alike.

Mr Miliband wrote in the New States­man in 2012: “How can my Jewish­ness not be part of me? It de­fines how my fam­ily was treated.

“I would not be leader of the Labour Party with­out the trauma of my fam­ily his­tory.”


Ed Miliband: “How can my Jewish­ness not be part of me?”

Key in­flu­ences: Lord Glas­man, Lord Kesten­baum, Lu­ciana Berger, his late fa­ther Ralph and Lord Men­del­sohn

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