A consultation survey sent out to Jewish community representatives outlining plans to merge the Board of Deputies with the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) has been met with derision, writes Stephen Oryszczuk.
As a survey was sent out, deputies reacted with anger and dismay at the latest stage of a process gathering views about the idea of the two communal bodies joining forces, calling the process “a hostile takeover” by the JLC.
“It confirms our worst fears,” said one deputy, who preferred to remain anonymous. “Under the illusion of democracy, the Board is voting itself out of existence, and in a masterstroke of contempt by the JLC, it is also paying for the pleasure.”
The deputy added: “If the Board believes it will influence the combined future organisation, it is in for a shock, once the reality of this hostile takeover sinks in.” The Board’s deputies, of which there are about 290, are drawn from all sections of the community, while the JLC comprises the heads of large Jewish communal organisations together with wealthy benefactors.
Another deputy, Joe Millis, from Bromley Reform Synagogue, said: “The survey assumes we have agreed to the principles, but apart from a presentation and a very superficial debate, I don’t recall ever voting on these.
“The Board’s honorary officers could easily lance this boil, which has been festering for far too long, by setting aside time at Sunday’s plenary for a vote on whether deputies want a merger.”
Plans to merge were unveiled last summer, with proposals including a two-chamber house, with one roughly based on the JLC. Despite the reluctance among deputies, those leading the merger plans have been at pains to stress that people’s views will be heard.
Last year, the two co-chairmen of the liaison group defended the process, with London Jewish Forum founder Adam Dawson saying “all stakeholders should input” and JLC vice-president Leo Noé saying “we need to hear all opinions”.
At a raucous 2013 meeting, board vice-president Jonathan Arkush reassured anxious deputies, saying: “If deputies don’t want it, it won’t happen,” but his promise was this week being questioned.
“If this isn’t a done deal, honorary officers should allow a debate and a vote on whether we should merge with the JLC.” added Millis.