Board of Deputies of British Jews

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The logo of the Board of Deputies

The Board of Deputies of British Jews (historically London Board of Deputies and London Committee of Deputies of British Jews) is the main representative body of British Jews. Established in London in 1760, when seven Deputies were appointed by the elders of the Sephardi congregation of Spanish and Portuguese Jews to form a standing committee and pay homage to George III on his accession to the throne;[1] shortly thereafter the Ashkenazi Jewish congregation from Central and Eastern Europe similarly appointed their own "Secret Committee for Public Affairs" to deal with any urgent political matters that might arise,[2] and safeguard the interests of British Jews as a religious community, both in the British Isles, but in the colonies.[3] They soon began to meet together as occasions arose, and then on a more frequent basis; by the 1810s they appear to have united as one body.[4]

The Board has since become a widely recognised forum for the views of the different sectors of the UK Jewish community.

Members and activities[edit]

The Board is currently led by Vivian Wineman, Deputy for Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, who was elected as President in May 2009. The Vice-Presidents are Laura Marks (Senior Vice-President) Jonathan Arkush, Deputy for Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue, and Alex Brummer. The Treasurer is Laurence Brass, Deputy for Bushey Synagogue. The President of the Board is normally the Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council and this development is seen to have extended the influence and reach of the Board's President.

The chief executive of the Board is Gillian Merron, a former Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lincoln from 1997 to 2010. From 2009 to 2010 she was Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health at the Department of Health.

The Board receives Deputies elected by individual synagogues, confederations of synagogues, and other organisations within the Jewish community such as charities and youth groups. It serves as the principal reference point for government, the media and wider society. All matters tending to impact on the life of Jews in Britain fall within the Board's remit, including an active interfaith programme.

The Board of Deputies offices are situated in the family home of Isaac D'Israeli, the father of the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

The Board is the British affiliate of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the world-wide umbrella organisation of Jewish communities.

Past presidents[edit]

The most historically notable and longest-serving past president was the Victorian philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore, who in the nineteenth century travelled widely to assist Jewish communities in foreign countries, faced by persecution at the time. A complete list of presidents, and interim positions during these travels, is given below.[1] More recently Greville Janner MP (now Lord Janner) was a President. A complete list of presidents and interim positions are listed below

Criticisms and controversies[edit]

In 2003, the Board, on its web site, reproduced an extract from a US State Department report that suggested that the aid organisation Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) was helping to fund terrorist organisations. Interpal threatened to sue for libel, whereupon the Board retracted and apologised for its comments[7][8]

The Board became involved in the Oliver Finegold affair when the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone made comments to a Jewish reporter, Oliver Finegold, comparing him or the newspaper he worked for, to a concentration camp guard. Many individuals and media commentators objected to the remark. Along with the Commission for Racial Equality, the Board filed a complaint to the Standards Board for England, calling for the Mayor to apologise to the reporter. The Mayor made a statement condemning the Holocaust, but stood by his remarks to the journalist, mentioning in passing his belief that the Board of Jewish Deputies only represents a small section of the Jewish community.[9]

On 5 February 2007, a group of prominent British Jews, such as Nobel laureate Harold Pinter and lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman, launched an organisation called Independent Jewish Voices to counterbalance what they perceive as uncritical support of Israel by major Jewish institutions in the UK, criticising particularly the Board of Deputies of British Jews.[10]

Relationship with Scotland's Jews[edit]

After Devolution in 1999, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities was formed to give the Jewish Community of Scotland a single democratically accountable voice in dealings with the Scottish Parliament and Executive, other communities, and other statutory and official bodies. The intention, when it was established was for it to stand in the same relationship to the Scottish Government as the Board of Deputies of British Jews does to the UK Government. Consequently the Council is autonomous in matters devolved by the Scotland Act, such as justice, health and welfare, and community relations, whilst the Board of Deputies speaks for all Britain's Jews on reserved matters such as foreign affairs and equality legislation.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Board of Deputies of British Jews, London Metropolitan Archives
  2. ^ Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews in England, Chapter 10, The Reign of George III, 1760–1815, 1941
  3. ^ Joseph Jacobs, London Committee of Deputies of British Jews
  4. ^ History of the Board, Board of Deputies of British Jews
  5. ^ "Blair unveils Holocaust memorial plan". BBC News. 26 January 2000. Retrieved 19 September 2009. 
  6. ^ Rachel Sylvester (17 July 2000). "First woman elected to lead Jewish board". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  7. ^ Dominic Casciani, Islamic charity cleared of Hamas link, BBC News, 24 September 2003.
  8. ^ Dominic Casciani, Top Jewish group 'terror' apology, BBC News, 29 December 2005.
  9. ^ Ros Taylor, "Livingstone Suspension Frozen by Judge," The Guardian 28 February 2006, accessed 9 February 2007.
  10. ^ Amy Goodman, "Independent Jewish Voices: New British Group Speaks Out on Israeli Policies in Occupied Territories," interview with Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Susie Orbach, Democracy Now! 9 February 2007, accessed 9 February 2007.

External links[edit]