The Board of Deputies – 2016 style
Our member, Haim Ben Zion was elected to be our representative at the Board of Deputies. Haim now provides us with an insight in the Board and its work.
When I was a student and Jewish Society Chairperson back in the late 70s, my impression of the 250-year-old Board of Deputies was of a well-heeled senior Jewish men’s debating club who spoke much but had little impact. Whether this is true or not I can’t say, but having now been elected as one of those Deputies, albeit not so well heeled, I can say that somewhat of a revolution seems to have taken place.
This may have had to do with the election in May 2015 of Gillian Merron MP as Chief Executive Officer, Shlomo (Jonathan) Arkush as President and of thirty-something Richard Verber as Vice President, with Sheila Gewolb and Marie Van Zyl on the Executive team. Keywords – women, youth and dynamism.
Of the 300 or so Deputies, about 200 represent their shuls and the rest represent charities, Jewish political organisations, Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and youth groups. Of these, about 30% are newbies and over 50% have served no more than two terms which means new blood and enthusiasm. Many of the old school are still there of course and bemoan the lack of the old debating style, ‘love the sound of my own voice’ etc.
In its place is an efficient and streamlined two-hour maximum plenary, where questions are answered online prior to the meeting and the agenda is a report of work done by the Divisions (or Committees), followed by the work groups, which are more calls to action than debates. A regional meeting then follows for Deputies from outside the M25, including St Albans, where matters concerning support of small communities, joint initiatives etc. are discussed.
Not unlike Parliament, most of the actual work is done through the Divisions and these meetings take place at least once per month outside of the Plenary meeting.
There are four Divisions:
Defence – This encompasses combatting anti-semitism, anti-Zionism and our Jewish way of life – schita, brit mila, faith schools and support to UJS on Campus.
International – This liaises with other Jewish communities such as CRIF in France and represents our community to Government, Israel, and International organisations.
Community and Education – This has a wide range of activities; Interfaith outreach through Jewish Life exhibitions, Tours for non-Jewish schools to ‘Jewish North London’ (shul and kosher nosh); speakers on Judaism for school Religious Education classes (SACRE); Pikuach to inspect RE standards, BoDSA Social Action Group, Jewish-Muslim Womens network (Nisa-nashim); Shoah (Holocaust) survivor project and BoDWG (Women’s Group).
Finance and Organisation – This group is responsible for the Board of Deputies budget for activities generated by the other Divisions, fundraising and so on.
I have affiliated myself to the Community and Education Division and as such have been active in trying to bring the Jewish Life Expo to St Albans. I have also made myself available for the Jewish Living Tours, even though Rabbi Rafi does a great job with schools in our area.
I will be launching a campaign for volunteers who would be up for presenting Judaism to schools in the area, but more of this later.
I am also involved with Board of Deputies initiatives supporting campus activities, based on my experience as a Jewish Agency student shaliach some years ago.
In addition, as part of the East Anglia Regional group, I will be involved in ways to provide support to small communities and outreach to unaffiliated Jews (and Israelis).
Follow the link to watch the Board in Action.
If you have any questions or if you would want me to ask questions or raise issues on your behalf at the Board, then please email the shul, or catch me the next time you see me in shul!
We receive the Community Briefing directly from the Board of Deputies, the latest of which can be seen by following these links:
For any further information about the vital work of the Board of Deputies, please see the website at http://www.bod.org.uk/. Alternatively, contact Haim ben Zion via the shul office on 01727 860642 or send him an email using our contact form.