The Jewish Chronicle (The JC) is a London-based Jewish weekly newspaper. Founded in 1841, it is the oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper in the world.
The newspaper is published every Friday (except when this is a Jewish holiday, when it appears earlier in the week) providing news, opinion pieces, social, cultural and sports reports, as well as editorials and a spectrum of readers' opinions on the letter page. The news section of its website is updated several times a day.
In February 2020, it announced plans to merge with the Jewish News but, in April 2020, entered voluntary liquidation and was acquired from the liquidators by a private consortium of political insiders, broadcasters and bankers.
The Jewish Chronicle first appeared on 12 November 1841. Its first editors were D. Meldola and M. Angel. It was issued as a weekly until May 1842, when it was suspended. From October 1844, it resumed as a fortnightly, with Joseph Mitchell as its editor. In 1847, it became again a weekly newspaper. A. Benisch, who became the proprietor and editor in 1855, bequeathed the paper to the Anglo-Jewish Association in 1878, who sold it to its new editor and anti-Zionist Asher I. Myers, Sydney M. Samuel and Israel David.
In 1881, the leaders of the Jewish community in London were being criticised for not campaigning against the pogroms that were taking place in the Russian Empire. Under the leadership of Francis Henry Goldsmid, the pogroms were not mentioned by the newspaper and it was only after the feminist Louisa Goldsmid gave her support following calls to arms by an anonymous writer named "Juriscontalus" and Asher Myers of The Jewish Chronicle that action was taken. Public meetings were then held across the country and Jewish and Christian leaders in Britain spoke out against the atrocities.
In December 1906, L.J. Greenberg, a successful advertising agent and English Zionist leader, contacted the Dutch banker Jacobus Kann with the object of buying The Jewish Chronicle to promote Zionism. The same month, Greenberg, together with David Wolffsohn, Joseph Cowen, Jacobus H. Kahn, and Leopold Kessler, bought the shares. Greenberg himself became its editor.
At the time, The JC gained a near monopoly in the Jewish press, taking over its principal competitors, The Hebrew Observer and The Jewish World. Only in October 1919, did The JC get a strong opposing voice from The Jewish Guardian, paper of the League of British Jews, which counterbalanced the Zionist views of The JC, until it disappeared in 1931. After Greenberg died the same year, The JC remained moderately pro-Zionist under the leadership of Leopold Kessler.
The weekly newspaper The Jewish World was taken over in 1913. It published articles by various Zionist leaders, as well as early non-Jewish pro-Zionists. In 1934, it was merged with The Jewish Chronicle. After 1948, the paper maintained a pro-Israel attitude.
In the late 1930s, David F. Kessler became managing director to assist his chairman father Leopold Kessler, a moderate Zionist and an associate of Theodor Herzl, known as the father of the State of Israel. After service as a soldier in World War II during which his father had died, Kessler found that the editor, Ivan Greenberg, had taken a right-wing Zionist position highly critical of moderate Zionists and the British policy in Palestine. Kessler, after a struggle with the newspaper's board, sacked Greenberg and installed a moderate editor.
By the early 1960s, the Kessler family owned 80% of the newspaper's shares. To safeguard the newspaper's future, Kessler created a foundation ownership structure loosely modelled on the Scott Trust owners of The Guardian. Kessler was chairman for nearly 30 years until his death in 1999.
Joseph Finklestone wrote for the paper from 1946 to 1992 in roles including sports editor, chief sub-editor, home news editor, assistant editor, foreign editor, and diplomatic editor.
Geoffrey Paul (birth name Goldstein) was editor between 1977 and 1990.
Editors have included Ned Temko, 1990 to 2005, Jeff Barak (managing editor, 2006), who returned to Israel, and David Rowan, 2006 to 2008, who joined The Observer. Stephen Pollard became editor in November 2008.
In 2019, after a number of years of declining circulation and a pension deficit, the reserves of its owners had been exhausted and the Press Gazette reported its situation as "facing a grave closure threat". Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, organised a consortium of 20 individuals, families and charitable trusts to make donations to The Kessler Foundation to enable its continued support of the newspaper. Alan Jacobs, founder of Jacobs Capital, became the new chairman.
In February 2020, The Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News announced plans to merge, subject to raising the necessary finance to support the merger. Combined, they print more than 40,000 copies weekly. On 8 April 2020, The Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News both announced their intentions to close, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two weeks later, however, it was announced that the former could be saved by a consortium which made a bid for the publication's assets. The consortium included John Woodcock, John Ware and Jonathan Kandel. The other members of the consortium acquiring the Chronicle are biographer William Shawcross, Rabbi Jonathan Hughes, broadcaster Jonathan Sacerdoti, Investec’s corporate and institutional banking chief operating officer Robert Swerling, managing partner at EMK Capital Mark Joseph, and Tom Boltman, head of strategic initiatives at Kovrr.
Under the ownership of Asher Myers and Israel Davis, from 1878, the paper was hostile to Zionism, in line with the official positions of the religious and lay leaders of the community. After Leopold Greenberg had taken over the paper in 1906, it became strongly Zionist and it was made into "a firm and influential champion of Zionism".
The JC supported the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the publication of which was postponed for a week in order to allow the Chronicle to publish its opinion in time. After the Declaration was issued, however, the paper became critical of Chaim Weizmann. Greenberg was discontented with the too vague definition of the Zionist goals and wanted him to state clearly that Palestine must be politically Jewish. He wanted to define the "National Home" as a Jewish Commonwealth. Although JC's support of Zionism somewhat decreased after Greenberg's death, it has consistently devoted considerable space to Israel and Zionism.
Under Leopold Greenberg, The JC was hostile to the Reform and Liberal movements in Britain. Over the years, attention shifted from Orthodoxy in Anglo-Jewry to developments in Progressive Judaism, while becoming more critical of the Orthodox position on halakhic issues.
Pollard accepts that the paper does not present a comprehensive picture of events, saying in 2009, "But don't forget who our readership is. They are interested in getting the news about Israel. It's not a biased view. We are presenting one aspect of all the news that is going on. Nobody gets all their news from the JC; we're a complementary news source."
In 2014, the editor apologised on behalf of the paper for running an advertisement by the Disasters Emergency Committee appealing for funds for humanitarian relief for Gaza. He said that he and the paper did not support the appeal and were "entirely supportive" of Operation Protective Edge. He disputed the reported number of civilian casualties and asserted that many were terrorists.
In June 2019, Pollard said "I think in the last few years there's certainly been a huge need for the journalism that the JC does in especially looking at the anti-Semitism in the Labour party and elsewhere" and "there's such a huge need for our proper crusading independent journalism". Kessler Foundation chair Clive Wolman said: "In the end, we and the JC Trust decided that our primary consideration had to be to preserve the editorial independence of the JC, particularly at a time when its journalists are playing such an important role in exposing anti-Semitism in British politics. In July 2019, Pollard said that the Jewish community wants "to see [the current Labour Party leadership] removed from any significant role in public life."
The former Jewish Chronicle
offices in Furnival Street, central London
In 1981, the publication published an interview with then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher was questioned regarding the state of Israel and how Conservative policy affected the Jewish community.
In September 1999, it was the first non-Israeli newspaper to conduct an interview with Ehud Barak during his term as Prime Minister of Israel.
In December 2007, the newspaper published an interview with the Labour Party donor, David Abrahams.
In July 2013, The Jewish Chronicle hosted an audience with UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Farage was interviewed by editor Stephen Pollard, and took questions from the audience.
In December 2019, The Jewish Chronicle published an article by Melanie Phillips which asserted that Islamophobia was a bogus term which provided cover for antisemites. The Board of Deputies of British Jews described its publication as an error, and editor Stephen Pollard acknowledged that "A number of people within the Jewish community, and friends of the community, have expressed their dismay – and anger – at its content."
In April 2020, when the Chronicle faced closure due to financial problems, many Labour supporters welcomed its potential demise, with some speculating that the damages it had been forced to pay for libel were the reason for the paper's plight. While many voices within the Jewish community expressed dismay at the closure, the former ANC politician and anti-apartheid activist, Andrew Feinstein, stated that “The Jewish Chronicle’s equating of antisemitism with criticism of Israel has put back the struggle against real AS & all racism by years.”
Lawsuits and rulings relating to false and inaccurate reporting
Prior to 2019
In 1968, The Jewish Chronicle accused Labour MP Christopher Mayhew of making antisemitic comments on a television programme. Mayhew sued for libel, arguing that his comments were anti-Zionist but not antisemitic. He received a public apology in the High Court. A complaint by Mayhew to the Press Council in April 1971, about the editing of a published letter to the editor, was rejected.
In 2009, a peace activist accepted £30,000 damages and an apology from the paper over false claims that he had harboured two suicide bombers.
In September 2014, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) published details of a complaint about an editorial alleging the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) had banned Jews from the International Union of Architects (IUA), and was thus antisemitic. The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated that the Chronicle publish a letter in response by the complainant.
In November 2014, the Press Complaints Commission published details of a complaint made by the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) about the Chronicles reporting that July of her words, which had stated that she had described PSC supporters as antisemitic; the complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a correction online.
In August 2017, The Jewish Chronicle published a ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that an article it had published earlier that year about a court case was in breach of the Editors' Code of Practice by identifying family members of the defendant. The Judge did not accept the defences of The Jewish Chronicle that the family members were prominent members of the community or that the family had been referenced in the proceedings, albeit without identifying individual members.
In February 2018, The Jewish Chronicle falsely reported that a blogger and Labour Party member was a Holocaust denier. IPSO upheld a complaint that the newspaper had misrepresented online comments, although it rejected three of his four complaints about accuracy.
In August 2019, the British charity Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) received an apology, damages of £50,000 and legal costs after The Jewish Chronicle published "false and defamatory allegations", implying that it had links to terrorist activity. On 23 August, the paper published a full apology, together with an article by Ibrahim Hewitt, chair of trustees of Interpal.
In November 2019, The Jewish Chronicle published a ruling by IPSO that it had breached the Editors’ Code of Practice in relation to a number of claims over four articles about a Labour Party member published in February and March 2019. IPSO also expressed significant concerns about the newspaper's handling of this complaint in that it had failed repeatedly to answer questions put to it by IPSO and considered that the publication's conduct during IPSO's investigation was unacceptable. In February 2020, The Jewish Chronicle acknowledged that they had made untrue and distressing allegations, for which they apologised, and agreed to pay damages and legal costs.
In December 2019, IPSO found that The Jewish Chronicle breached the Editors’ Code of Practice by falsely describing a Labour Party activist as Jewish and as a member of the executive of the Labour Representation Committee; the paper corrected the article and published a full corretion online.
In September 2020, The Jewish Chronicle published an apology to a councillor about whom the newspaper had printed numerous false and libellous allegations. The newspaper alleged that the councillor was involved in inviting an activist, who they deemed to be anti-Semitic, to a Labour Party event; they also claimed that the councillor ignored "antisemitic statements" made by a fellow activist. They further alleged that the councillor had "launched a vicious protest against Luciana Berger MP in terms suggestive of antisemitism" and had also tried to "improperly interfere with a democratic vote at a regional Labour Party meeting". Each of the allegations were judged to be unfounded. In addition to the apology, the Jewish Chronicle, its editor and senior reporter Lee Harpin paid substantial libel damages and the legal costs.
Also in September 2020, IPSO upheld a complaint against The Jewish Chronicle by Shahrar Ali, home affairs spokesman for the Green Party of England and Wales. The newspaper published claims in December 2019 that Ali had compared the Israel Defense Forces' actions during the Gaza War of 2009 to the Holocaust in a speech given on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2009. IPSO ruled that the publication "had failed to take care not to publish misleading information, and failed to distinguish between comment and fact" in relation to its published interpretation of Ali's comments, and had been inaccurate in reporting the timing of the speech as it had not occurred on Holocaust Memorial Day.
In March 2021, The Jewish Chronicle published false and defamatory claims against political activist and journalist Marc Wadsworth. The article stated that Wadsworth was involved in a potentially criminal "conspiracy to intimidate, threaten or harass Jewish activists into silence" in an online meeting of the Labour in Exile Network. In reality Wadsworth had issued no such threats, had not attended the meeting and was not a member of the Labour in Exile Network. On 28 May 2021, the newspaper admitted the story was false in all respects, issued an apology, and agreed to pay damages. On the 22 July 2021, the High Court of England and Wales found The Jewish Chronicle to be guilty of libelling Wadsworth in this matter. Following the libel verdict, Wadsworth said he was "deeply distressed that The Jewish Chronicle did not check its facts or contact me before its article was written. Instead, it chose to publish serious and unfounded allegations, linking me with potential criminality, which go to the heart of my reputation as a journalist and long-standing campaigner against racism."
Publication data and finances
The average weekly circulation in 2018 was 20,141, of which 7,298 were free copies, down from 32,875 in 2008.
The newspaper's website includes paid-for searchable archives of all editions from the first issue to the present, making it valuable for Anglo-Jewish genealogists and historians. The website was launched in 2000 and has won three successive Weekly Newspaper on the Web awards. It was relaunched in 2008.
In 2018 the newspaper had a loss of about £1.5 million on operating costs of about £4.9 million, following losses in the previous two years. The reserves of its owners since 1984, the charity The Kessler Foundation, had been exhausted and they planned to introduce revenue and cost measures to reduce losses. According to the editor, the paper had been facing the "real threat" of having to close, but in 2019, a consortium made donations to the Foundation so it could continue to support the newspaper.
In April 2020, The Jewish Chronicle was acquired from the liquidators by a private consortium of political insiders, broadcasters and bankers.
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Other than the tiny number of members of the Corbynite propaganda group JVL, the entire Jewish community is united in the goal of ensuring that the antisemites who now run the Labour Party are defeated. We may differ on whether that defeat can or should happen only within the Labour Party or at the ballot box, but we want to see them removed from any significant role in public life.
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