London (archive)
London (archive) Nati Shohat/FLASH90

One of the biggest trade unions in the UK has created a “Jewish faith workers branch” whose goal is to improve working conditions for rabbis, rebbetzins and others who work in the Jewish community, the UK Jewish News reported.

The GMB union launched the branch at an event held at its north London headquarters where 15 rabbis representing all major Jewish movements in Britain attended in-person and virtually.

The branch’s aim is to help Jewish sector employees with general employment issues.

The Tuesday launch was seen as significant as it comes amid a rift between the trade union movement and the broader Jewish community in recent decades, especially during the years when Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour Party, a tenure supported by the union movement’s leadership.

One of the branch’s founders, Muswell Hill Synagogue’s Rabbi David Mason, said at the event that it was a “big moment for GMB.”

“it’s a big moment for the Jewish community, and for relationships with the Labour movement. This is incredible from all perspectives,” he said.

”I would like to thank the GMB for building this new branch. There is a long history of the Jewish community being part of the trade union story.”

He added: “This branch will allow that story to continue and give rabbinic staff across the community an important voice on their workplace conditions. It has been a pleasure to have been part of bringing this to fruition.”

“Today marks a remarkable day and a new chapter in both GMB’s and the wider labour movements’ history,” the GMB’s general secretary Gary Smith said. “Our union was co-founded by Eleanor Marx in 1889 who, after seeing the dire conditions of Jewish factory workers in London’s East End, and led by her sense of justice, fought for a more compassionate world.”

“It is in this great tradition that we have listened to our members and supported their efforts to launch a specialist faith branch for those working for Jewish faith employers. Workers’ interests are best served when people organize themselves, from the bottom up, not the top down,” he added.

Addressing antisemitism within the union movement, Smith said: “It felt to me, someone who is not Jewish, that somehow antisemitism had become a different type of racism… “All too often antisemitism has become the refuge for middle class racists.”