Board of Deputies of British Jews
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; 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, and safeguard the interests of British Jews as a religious community, both in the British Isles, and in the colonies. 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.
The Board has since become a widely recognised forum for the views of the different sectors of the UK Jewish community.
Members and organisation
The Board is currently led by Jonathan Arkush, Deputy for Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue, who was elected as President in May 2015. The Vice-Presidents are Richard Verber (Senior Vice-President, Deputy for World Jewish Relief), Marie van der Zyl (Deputy for West London Synagogue), and Sheila Gewolb (Deputy for Cardiff United Synagogue). The Treasurer is Stuart MacDonald (Deputy for Liberal Judaism). Jonathan Arkush took the decision not to run for the chair of council of the Jewish Leadership Council, despite previous President Vivian Wineman having held this post.
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. She leads a team of professional staff including Director of Public Affairs Philip Rosenberg (formerly of Faiths Forum for London), Parliamentary Affairs Officer Sophie Dunoff, International Affairs Officer David Walsh (formerly of Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre) and PR and Communications Officer Simon Round (formerly the Jewish Chronicle's features writer).
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 co-located with the United Jewish Israel Appeal in Camden Town.
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. A complete list of presidents and interim positions follows:
- Benjamin Mendes Da Costa (1760)
- Joseph Salvador (1766)
- Joseph Salvador (1778)
- Moses Isaac Levy (1789)
- Naphtaly Bazevy (1801)
- no record (1802–1812)
- Raphael Brandon (1812)
- Moses Lindo (1817–1829)
- Moses Mocatta (1829–1835)
- Sir Moses Montefiore (1835–1838)
- David Salmons (1838 October–November)
- I.Q. Henriques (1838–1840)
- Moses Montefiore (1840 May–July)
- Hananel De Castro (1840–1841)
- Moses Montefiore (1841–1846)
- David Salomons (1846 March–August)
- Moses Montefiore (1846–1855)
- Isaac Foligno (1855 April–December)
- Moses Montefiore (1855–1857)
- Isaac Foligno (1855 February–September)
- Moses Montefiore (1857–1862)
- Joseph Meyer Montefiore (1862–1868)
- Moses Montefiore (1868 June–November)
- Joseph Meyer Montefiore (1868–1871)
- Moses Montefiore (1871–1874)
- Joseph Meyer Montefiore (1874–1880)
- Arthur Cohen (1880–1895)
- Joseph Sebag Montefiore (1895–1903)
- David Lindo Alexander (1903–1917)
- Stuart Samuel (1917–1922)
- Henry Henriques (1922–1925)
- Lord Rothschild (1925–1926)
- Sir Osmond d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (1926–1933)
- Neville Laski (1933–1939)
- Selig Brodetsky (1940–1949)
- A. Cohen (1949–1955)
- Barnett Janner (1955–1964)
- Soloman Teff (1964–1967)
- Michael Fidler (1967–1973)
- John Vavasseur Fisher, 3rd Baron Fisher (1973–1979)
- Greville Janner, QC (1979–1985)
- Lionel Kopelowitz (1985–1991)
- Israel Finestein (1991–1994)
- Eldred Tabachnik, QC (1994–2000)
- Josephine Wagerman (2000–2003), OBE, formerly headmistress of the JFS in the years 1985–1993.
- Henry Grunwald OBE QC (2003–2009)
- Vivian Wineman (2009 – 2015)
- Jonathan Arkush (2015 – )
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
Oliver Finegold affair
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.
Uncritical support for Israel and Political Partisanship
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has been criticized for; adopting an uncritical stance on Israel, unwavering support for Zionism, the growing perception that it takes a partisan position the Israel-Palestine conflict to the determent of Palestinian rights and aspirations and ignoring critical perspectives within the Jewish community.
It has been suggested that the Board of Deputies of British Jews has '...no business taking a partisan position on the Middle East...The role of the board is to promote the welfare of British Jews in all their variety, not to defend Israel'
It has been noted that 'Since Zionism became a communal orthodoxy in the post-second world war period, and certainly since 1967, the vast majority of British Jewish communal bodies have stressed the need for communal unity in demonstrating solidarity with Israel. 
Independent Jewish Voices
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 and its support for Zionism [not in citation given] by major Jewish institutions in the UK, criticising particularly the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Relationship with Scotland's Jews
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.
- Religion in the United Kingdom
- History of the Jews in England
- Presbyter Judaeorum
- European Jewish Congress
- World Jewish Congress
- "Charity overview". charitycommission.gov.uk.
- Board of Deputies of British Jews, London Metropolitan Archives
- Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews in England, Chapter 10, The Reign of George III, 1760–1815, 1941
- Joseph Jacobs, London Committee of Deputies of British Jews
- History of the Board, Board of Deputies of British Jews
- "Blair unveils Holocaust memorial plan". BBC News. 26 January 2000. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
- Rachel Sylvester (17 July 2000). "First woman elected to lead Jewish board". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- Dominic Casciani, Islamic charity cleared of Hamas link, BBC News, 24 September 2003.
- Dominic Casciani, Top Jewish group 'terror' apology, BBC News, 29 December 2005.
- Ros Taylor, "Livingstone Suspension Frozen by Judge," The Guardian 28 February 2006, accessed 9 February 2007.
- http://www.spinwatch.org/images/Reports/Spinwatch_report_The_Britain_Israel_Communications_and_Research_Centre_Giving_peace_a_chance_2013web.pdf p.29
- 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.