Jewish News Editor Richard Ferrer

Jewish News Editor Richard Ferrer

 By Richard Ferrer, editor Jewish News

Rarely has there been such a swift response to a Jewish communal survey. In the last few days, more than 1,300 Jewish News readers have gone online to have their say on the community’s leadership, which is currently on trial over Gaza.

There have been plenty of polls doing the rounds recently, but we’d wage that the results of this one are worth serious contemplation.

That it highlights a complete split in opinion is hardly surprising: this is the Jewish community, after all. That there is such strength of feeling, however, is far less predictable and far more noteworthy.

Our poll follows last week’s much-discussed town hall meeting at JFS, during which the great and the good took the stand to answer charges of inaction.

Writing in this week’s Jewish News, the Board of Deputies’ new chief executive pleads not guilty. “The work we have been doing has yielded significant success,” she says. “But such work, perhaps, never feels enough.”

It certainly doesn’t, at least to several hundred community members, who have taken to blogs and petitions to voice their disquiet.

Our poll collected 1336 votes in a week. At the time of going to press, voting was dead on 50:50

Our poll collected 1336 votes in a week. At the time of going to press, voting was dead on 50:50

To dismiss those doing so as “rabble-rousers” is short-sighted. Almost 700 people does not a rabble constitute. It’s a groundswell of opinion.

And while our poll cannot be described as a vote of no confidence as such, it does show that organisations such as the Board have much more to do in communicating what work – both individually or collectively – it does on our behalf, and the impact we see as a result.

Here, we can’t help but feel sorry for the accused. Some of the most effective conversations are far from public and could never latterly be made so (to the disgruntlement of many a Jewish News journalist!)

It’s also difficult to show the results. A case in point is the Tricycle Theatre’s U-turn. Whether it reversed its decision on the basis of communal leaders’ pressure or the withdrawal of funding will likely never be known. To an extent it doesn’t matter who scores the goal if the team wins.

Organisations including the Board have compelled community members to write to their MPs. It is understood disappointingly few have answered the call. We’ve all seen the increase in anti-Semitic incidents of late.

People are feeling anxious and are looking for reassurance and action from those who represent them. No doubt this won’t be the last time we feel like this.