Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Abraham Pinter responds to Geoffrey Alderman

Abraham Pinter has responded to points raised by Geoffrey Alderman in Stop worrying and learn to love race politics. In the piece Alderman says that Hackney politics are driven by religion and ethnicity, not class, as elsewhere in the UK.

Pinter says that Alderman is looking at the Hackney Jewish community as an outsider and is both out of date and out of touch.


Perhaps the most contentious issue is whether the ultra-orthodox Jewish community only votes for candidates from within its own community.

Pinter does not agree that this issue is described correctly by Alderman and says that both of their views will be put to the test on May 6th in the Seven Sisters ward in Haringey.

Pinter said that the Conservative party had come close to defeating Labour in the ward last year. He believes that this was due to 90% of ultra-orthodox Jewish voters supporting the Conservative Party which happened to be the only party fielding an ultra-orthodox candidate. He also said that this, combined with growth in the ultra-orthodox community over that short period, should point to a success for the Conservatives.

But he said that Labour would retain the seat because of the work done by the party to improve relations with the community – particularly over planning issues.

“The Labour Party took seriously what happened and they’ve taken steps to recognise the needs of the community.”

He said: “It is a test but I am confident. We know what goes on in the community because we are a school and we get a lot of feed back.”

If Labour retains the seat it would, he believes, disprove some of Alderman's claims. The victory would be achieved despite the Labour party having no representative from within the ultra-orthodox Jewish community, while the Conservatives do.

However he did acknowledge that it is common within the community to vote for a recognisable name, but he said that if a non-Charedi candidate could prove that he or she had the community’s interests at heart, they would be supported. He said that the Labour Party in Haringey had achieved this.


Pinter said that Alderman was out of touch on the role of women in the community. One of the organisation that Alderman talks about is Agudas Israel and Pinter points out that its chief executive of Agudas Israel Housing Association is Ita Symons.

He said that Symons was one of the most powerful people in the community. As a Labour supporter he said he didn't think the accolade of the Jewish community's Margaret Thatcher was a compliment, but said that the comparison had been made.

Pinter also pointed to Interlink which he said may now be a more powerful organisation: “Interlink is one of the most powerful organisations in the community and it is politically run by women. He pointed to a recent article in the Jewish Chronicle: Come on, women, lets get equal."

He said that Bella Sharer standing in the Brownswood ward in Hackney would only be a novelty if she won. He said it was common practice for wives to stand as paper candidates in seats they have no chance of winning. Unlike Ian Sharer, he does not believe the Lib Dems have much chance in Brownswood.


One of the issues raised by Geoffrey Alderman in Stop worrying and learn to love race politics referred to an article written in the Jewish Tribune back in 1978. Alderman said that the article had demonstrated a set of anti-black attitudes that still exist in the community, but which are not published because of the reaction from beyond the community.

But Pinter said the author of the article had been an older member of the community and that the sentiment had been that Jews should not fight battles on behalf of the black community – or they all faced the risks of a backlash.

He said that there were a number of the problems with making an argument like Alderman’s.

Pinter pointed to his own attitudes at the time: “The way I grew up, when I was an 18-year-old - 45 years ago - when I saw a successful black person, I always felt myself to have positive views, as in "isn’t it wonderful that a black person can do well here" now I think that this view might be racist because it is patronising. But that’s the way it was back then."

He said that views of society at large had changed and they had also changed in Hackney's ultra orthodox Jewish community.

He said: "I think it's worth mentioning that the Hamodia is now the main newspaper read by the community and not the Jewish Tribune, but as I said Alderman is an Historian."

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