General Election 2019: This Is How Young Jewish Women Are Voting On Thursday

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Allegations of anti-Semitism have plagued the Labour Party in recent years and have continued to dominate headlines as people prepare to vote in Thursday's general election. In the run-up to election week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came under fire for "refusing four times to apologise to British Jews" amid criticism of his party's handling of anti-Semitism during an interview with the BBC's Andrew Neil.
The concerns also saw Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis launch an unprecedented attack on Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of allowing a "poison sanctioned from the top" to take root in the party and calling him "unfit for high office". He added that British Jews have been gripped by a justified anxiety about the prospect of a Corbyn-led government.
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In response, Jeremy Corbyn declared that anti-Jewish hate "won't be tolerated in any form", while two Labour frontbenchers, Nia Griffith and Richard Burgon, apologised publicly for the way the party has handled anti-Semitism.
There's no denying that anti-Semitism in the UK is rife. Figures from Jewish charity the Community Security Trust last year found that anti-Semitic hate incidents in the UK rose by 16% in 2018 – numbers which are in line with the Home Office's report in October which showed a 17% rise in all hate crime in England and Wales in 2017/18.
There seems to be a divide among young Jewish voters, with many unsure of who to vote for on polling day. With the general election fast approaching, we reached out to Jewish women in the UK to ask where they stand and how they are voting at the ballot box this Thursday.
This is what they had to say.
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Rose, 28, is not a member of the Labour Party but has always voted for them in the past. She lives in north London.
Are you voting for Labour in the upcoming general election and if so, why?
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Possibly. In some ways it feels like this election should be easy. I truly believe that if the current Tory government stays in power, the entire country will be worse off. I also live in a pretty safe Labour seat with an incredible female MP who I personally admire and I believe will do all she can to improve things for the lives of her constituents. Ordinarily I would vote Labour with no hesitation.
But I also believe that Jeremy Corbyn is a flawed, weak leader who most likely doesn't treat anti-Semitism that seriously. Over and over again his attitude seems to have been that multiple allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party are a wasp at his picnic and getting in the way of more important things. Some people I speak to seem to have that attitude (Jewish and non), that we should vote for Labour to unseat the Tories because that's most important. I feel angry at the attitude that British Jews are just supposed to accept a certain amount of anti-Semitism and I feel so unbelievably scared. There's been some coverage of the extra security Jewish MPs need, but I don't think most British people know that almost all synagogues have trained security staff on guard during services or that Jewish community centres need metal detectors so they can scan people's bags for bombs on entry in case of attacks. My dad had to change my grandfather's funeral plans because people were breaking into Jewish cemeteries to smash headstones with sledgehammers. I get the feeling that to many Britons who maybe don't know many Jewish people, anti-Semitism is an abstract concept that has to do with the Holocaust, the Israeli government and maybe some 'jokes' about big noses. To me though, the natural consequence of anti-Semitism is living every day with the constant threat of hatred, abuse and violence. Knowing all that, seeing the leader of a political party sending the message that a bit of anti-Semitism is something which we all just have to live with for the greater good is terrifying and I am scared that voting for Labour sends the message that the safety of my family and my community isn't that important.
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I feel split in half for the party I genuinely think will bring positive change to my country and the leader of that party whose actions have already brought harassment and danger to my community. This isn't just about Jewish people; no one should be put in this position, no one of any race or religion should have to make that choice but with the current political leaders, a lot of minorities are being forced to. Britain is where my family fled to feel safe from anti-Semitism and I don't know what to do now it's demonstrably here.
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Nadine, 26, is from Birmingham and has always been a Labour voter.
Are you voting Labour in the upcoming general election and if so, why?
Yes. I’m a black Jew voting Labour, who grew up working class and has mental health problems. Labour is the only party with a viable chance to protect minorities from the existential far-right threat – in the Tory party and society. We must defeat white supremacy, yet the Tories are galvanising it. As well as this, there are currently 4.5 million children living in poverty – some so hungry they eat toilet paper – and the UN has compared Tory welfare policy to workhouses. I know how hard and brutal it is to live in poverty, and what it’s like to not have enough money to buy food. Labour is committed to ending this.

I'm a black Jew voting Labour, who grew up working class and has mental health problems. Labour is the only party with a viable chance to protect minorities from the existential far-right threat – in the Tory party and society.

Nadine, 26
I’m also voting Labour because of the lack of mental healthcare and the risk the Conservative Party poses to its existence. The NHS is being dismantled with chronic underfunding, and now is at risk from the US. And the service is already insufficient as it is – the lack of investment in NHS mental healthcare nearly killed me when I wasn’t able to get the care I needed during a crisis. Most importantly, however, I’m voting Labour because I want a planet to live on in the near future and because short-term, geopolitical politics and feuding will mean nothing if the planet is dead. This does not mean anti-Semitism does not exist in Labour, and I will continue to challenge it as and when I see it and demand Labour continues to work to eradicate the issue from the party.
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Hannah, 23, is from London and joined the Labour Party as a student. She was a member for a few years before she resigned in September 2018. She is undecided on which party to vote for.
Are you voting Labour in the upcoming general election and can you explain why?
Absolutely not! Labour’s issues go way beyond institutional racism; from an incompetent Brexit policy to fraternising with our country’s enemies, Corbyn has proved he does not have the compassion, the integrity or the political judgement to lead the Labour Party, let alone the country.
There’s no good outcome from this election but given that the vast majority of the Jewish community see Corbyn as a very real threat, voting Labour would be at best wilfully ignorant and at worst, complicit.
I'm currently undecided on who to vote for though.
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*Lucy, 26, grew up in Manchester but now lives in London. She was a member of the Labour Party throughout university until she was 23. She has only ever voted Labour in the past. She is voting for the Liberal Democrats.
Are you voting Labour in the upcoming general election, and can you explain why?
No. I'm actively against austerity (I'm disabled and know that those with disabilities will be hit the hardest by Conservative policy) and the intolerances held by Conservative Party members, however, I can't comfortably vote for a Corbyn government that has so inadequately failed to respond to the concerns of the Jewish community.
If you speak out about anti-Semitism in Labour, you're accused of advocating for Boris Johnson and placing your own community needs above those of other minorities, even if you've clearly stipulated you're against Johnson and against austerity. Until Corbyn resigns and the party takes real stock of the relationship with the community, I won't be rejoining or voting for them, even though my family has a strong history of proud East End socialism.
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If you speak out about anti-Semitism in Labour, you're accused of advocating for Boris Johnson and placing your own community needs above those of other minorities...

*Lucy, 26
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*Josie, 28, is from Essex and now lives in Surrey. She has voted Labour in the past but is now voting for the Liberal Democrats.
Are you voting Labour in the upcoming general election and can you explain why?
No. I'm voting tactically to get the Tories out, and in my area that means voting Lib Dem. But even if that weren't the case, I don't think I would be able to vote Labour at the moment. Do I think that Jeremy Corbyn hates Jews? No. Do I think that he has a zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism, and therefore to racism? Also no.
If it were solely down to manifestos, voting Labour would be a no-brainer, but there's a bigger picture for me. I've heard too many first-hand accounts from my grandparents' generation to not take stock of the fact that the worst of racism and discrimination doesn't happen overnight; the downward spiral begins when people turn a blind eye to the concerns of a minority group. It's a painful, arduous and ongoing process trying to get my head around this, and I'm losing sleep over it at the moment.

I don't think I would be able to vote Labour at the moment. Do I think that Jeremy Corbyn hates Jews? No. Do I think that he has a zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism, and therefore to racism? Also no.

*Josie, 28
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Emily, 29, is from London and has voted for Labour in the past.
Are you voting Labour in the general election and if so, why?
Yes. As a member of a religion that has been persecuted in a number of countries before, I think it’s important to not only look out for ourselves but all minorities. The Jewish people are safer and more protected than ever before, but this is not the case for other minority groups (be it race, religion, wealth, gender). For this alone, I could never vote for a party that promotes anti-immigrant rhetoric, declares an end to the freedom of movement, deports rightful citizens from the West Indies, takes from the poorer parts of society to bail out the richest, or would want to profit from the NHS.
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Time and time again, Labour stands up for these people – Jeremy Corbyn is the only leader to have been arrested for protesting racism, the only leader to stand against war and genocide. It's the only party looking to bridge the huge wealth gap and help minorities out of poverty, and with a clear love for the NHS.
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Isobel, 28, is from London and has voted for Labour in the past.
Are you voting for Labour in the upcoming general election and can you explain why?
No. As a very secular Jew I simply cannot ignore the ongoing issues surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, Labour and anti-Semitism.
When Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the party’s leader in 2015, I’ll admit that I was caught up in the hype. I didn’t join the party to vote for him but it felt like there was real change coming and that he was going to be the answer to Tory rule. I voted for Ed Miliband’s Labour in 2015 and things felt fairly hopeless after that election. I see why so many members felt that radical change was needed.
In 2017, I voted for the Labour Party as it felt like a vote against Brexit. I saw Jeremy Corbyn speak at Glastonbury just a few weeks later, the biggest crowd I saw that weekend. He was a very impressive speaker and it felt invigorating to be part of something like that.
However in the two years since, I started to hear more and more about anti-Semitism in the Labour party. I read about Jeremy Corbyn’s past actions and those of his closest political advisors. It broke my heart to see how upset my mother was, seeing people who held these views gaining so much popularity and being so lauded.
This election has brought that into even sharper relief. I haven’t made any public statement about my political leanings on social media for fear of being shouted down. This election feels so polarised and I feel that if I were to voice my reservations about the party then I’d be accused of being a Tory, hating the poor and being in favour of selling off the NHS. It’s all or nothing with a lot of people and I feel like I’m almost alone in my peer group by not shouting about being pro-Labour. Several people have made the point on social media much better than I can but two things have stuck with me.
The first is the idea that Jewish people should ignore the overwhelming evidence and vote for Labour for the 'greater good' of unseating the Conservatives. No other marginalised group would be told to ignore the vitriol against them in favour of the 'greater good'. The idea that British Jews are less worthy of protection, of sympathy, of solidarity is itself rooted in anti-Semitism. The second thing was that the cause of Jewish fear isn’t just the idea of these people being in power; it’s the absence of voices of support. That our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours aren’t standing with us. That they think it’s insignificant and ignorable, a worthy sacrifice. After all, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
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