(JTA) — Jeremy Corbyn, the embattled head of the British Labour Party, attended a seder hosted by a far-left Jewish group, angering the mainstream Jewish community.
Known as Jewdas, the group said in an op-ed in The Guardian that it has “attempted to build a community based around activist, socialist and diasporist Judaism in the UK.” It has has called Israel a “steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of” and called Jewish community protests against Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism in the party “a bout of faux-outrage greased with hypocrisy and opportunism.”
On Tuesday, the day after what Corbyn called the “third night” seder, he defended his attendance there.
“It was very interesting talking to a lot of young people about their experiences of modern Britain and I learned a lot. Isn’t that a good thing?” he said at a public appearance. Corbyn also said the event was “a celebration of Passover, which I celebrate with young Jewish people from my own community and my own constituency.”
A spokesman for Corbyn told the British media that he attended the event, in his Islington constituency, in a personal capacity and not in his official role as Labour leader.
The British blog Guido Fawkes first reported that Corbyn attended the seder, citing a leaked audio recording of the program. During the seder, guests shouted “f*** capitalism” and booed the names of Jewish community leaders, according to the blog.
“While most of us are also active in our local synagogues and other Jewish cultural organizations, only together have we felt able to build the kind of freethinking, traditionally radical Judaism that is needed in the 21st century,” Jewdas said in its op-ed. “One event that we organize every year is a Passover seder, demonstrating the importance this Jewish holiday has for all of us. We have always tried to blend traditional rituals with radical commentaries, following the traditions and practices of progressive Jews for well over 100 years.”
The group continued: “In a normal situation, you might think that the leader of the opposition attending a seder with a group of 100 young, committed Jews might be a simple good news story. But if you’re determined to brand Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite, it seems that literally any story will do.”
The Haggadah used by the group includes a “Prayer Against the State of Israel,” which asks God to “smash” the Jewish state, and includes the Ten Plagues of the Occupation of Palestine.
In response to Corbyn’s presence at the seder, Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies said that that Jewdas was a “source of virulent antisemitism.” In an interview Tuesday on Sky News he added that he heard Corbyn describe. anti-Semitism as “vile and evil. So why then did he go to a group that is the source of virulent antisemitism and has dismissed the current news about antisemitism on the left as a right-wing smear.”
“Either Jeremy Corbyn was deliberately provoking the Jewish community or making a catastrophic error of judgment. I don’t know which of these is true,” Arkush added.
Last week, British Jewish leaders sent an open letter to the Labour Party declaring that “enough is enough,” and that Corbyn is “repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly anti-Semitic views.” The party has come under fire for harboring anti-Semitic members and leaders. British Jews and an interparliamentary committee of inquiry have dismissed as unsatisfactory an internal Labour audit that largely cleared the party of anti-Semitism allegations.
Corbyn called Hezbollah and Hamas his friends in 2009 and said it was an honor to host representatives from those terrorist groups in Parliament. In 2016 he said he regretted making those remarks.
Corbyn has headed the Labour Party since 2015.