An influential Sephardi leader in the UK has said he will challenge for the presidency of the Board of Deputies, becoming the third person to throw their hat in the ring.

Edwin Shuker, a vice-president of the European Jewish Congress who was born in Baghdad, said on Tuesday that he would fight current Board vice-presidents Sheila Gewolb and Marie van der Zyl for the position.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, former CST boss Richard Benson said he would not be entering the race, dashing rumours.

Shuker is no stranger to the Board, being a member of its executive. As vice-chair of its International Division, representing the Jewish community in discussions with the Israeli embassy in London, and representing the Board at the European Jewish Communities Summit in Barcelona.

A well-known philanthropist, he is also an active member of the S&P (Spanish and Portuguese) Sephardi Community, and “a tireless campaigner for the rights of Jews from Arab lands,” working to preserve Jewish shrines and sites “to keep the link between Iraq and its displaced Jewish community”.

Shuker’s candidacy opens the race beyond Van Der Zyl and Gewolb, both current Honourary Officers, with Gewolb earlier having said: “I hope it isn’t a two-horse race between Marie and I.”

Both current Board president Jonathan Arkush and current senior vice-president Richard Verber have ruled themselves out of the running for the three-year fixed-term position at the head of British Jewry.

Former Community Security Trust CEO Richard Benson said: “I am extremely delighted that Edwin Shuker has decided to run for the Presidency of the Board of Deputies. I firmly believe that Edwin has the qualities; experience; professionalism and leadership to become the next President of the Board of Deputies at such a critical time for our Community and I will be giving Edwin my full support; assistance and guidance throughout his campaign and beyond.”