Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the UK are launching an organisation aimed at engaging with the wider British public in a move that may mark a significant shift from their traditional insularity.
The Pinter Trust has the backing of rabbis and leaders from the main ultra-Orthodox, or Charedi, communities in north London, Manchester, Gateshead and Essex.
Its aim is to “build trust and dialogue with other organisations and groups” and to “seek to provide an accurate and truthful portrayal of the UK Charedi community”.
A website launching on Monday will include information about the community, a blog and points of contact.
The trust is named after Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, a well-known figure in Stamford Hill, north London, and a former Labour councillor, who died with Covid in 2020. Pinter was regarded as an ambassador for the community.
Rabbi Avroham Sugarman, chair of the trust, said the organisation hoped to build on his legacy. “The Pinter Trust will seek to tell the story of the Charedi community in the words of the community itself. Whilst we are not seeking external publicity for our community … we want to give people a greater understanding of who we are and our way of life.”
The trust would work “to build meaningful partnerships” with the media, local and central government and other groups, Sugarman said.
Charedi Jews are the fastest-growing sector of the UK Jewish population, mainly because of their large families: seven or eight children are common.
They are rigorous in their observance of their faith. Using electricity, phones or cars is prohibited on Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. Men and women follow strict dress codes; school curriculums are dominated by religious teaching, with boys and girls segregated; access to television and the internet is tightly controlled.
Charedi Jews publish their own newspapers and newsletters, and regard the mainstream media as unsympathetic to and ignorant about their way of life and concerns. Local authorities with significant Charedi communities liaise with community leaders to get across public service information – and, in the past 22 months, essential public health messages about Covid.
Joel Friedman, the trust’s director of public affairs, said the community had been considering setting up a public-facing organisation for three years.
“The Charedi community is growing,” he said, “but it doesn’t have a proactive voice telling our story to the outside world. Traditionally it has been an insular community.
“But there are a lot of misconceptions out there, and if the community is represented in a bad light to the wider population, that has a negative impact.”
He said the website would be “very basic” to begin with, but more content would be added over time. “This is a new thing for our community, we need to bring people with us.”
The trust hoped to invite people outside the community for tours and visits to communal settings, and would engage with other faith organisations, government bodies and local authorities, he said.
David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, welcomed the launch of the organisation, saying it would build inter-community awareness, dialogue and trust and was “vital at this pivotal moment in our nation’s history”.
He added: “I know the community it represents, and all those who come into contact with [it] will be enriched.”
Rabbinical authorities, including the Gateshead Kehilla, the Federation of Synagogues, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC), the Machzikei Hadass Communities of Manchester and the Manchester Beth Din, have endorsed the trust.
Rabbi Yehuda Baumgarten of the UOHC said: “The Pinter Trust will act as a credible and respected voice on matters concerning Anglo Charedi Jewry, under the guidance and leadership of respected community rabbis from across the UK.”