The office of the new chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) – effectively Mr Anglo-Jewry – is awash with sporting trophies. A signed England cricket bat here, a Spurs framed boot there. If there were any doubt that self-proclaimed “Ilford boy” Jonathan Goldstein is as much a proud Brit as he is a proud Jew, a glance at his office would lay that doubt to rest.

But Goldstein is not just one for trophies. He has hit the ground running in his quest to make the British Jewish community a lean, mean, efficient machine. “My overarching objective,” he says, “is to create a JLC that in representing its members is far more collaborative than in the past.”

Not, he hastens to say, that he is critical of the way his predecessor, Sir Mick Davis, ran the JLC. But the two men do have very different attitudes, not least the fact that Sir Mick is now the Conservative Party’s chief executive, while Goldstein makes no secret of his links with Labour – he joined the National Organisation of Labour Students on his first day at Manchester University, along with the JSoc.

“The JLC’s role is to help frame the architecture of our community,” he says, sounding as though he is reading from a script. But get him away from the jargon and Goldstein, a former lawyer, has a clear aim: “The methodology and the message of the JLC is one I want to change.”

His entire career, communally and professionally, has been one of  collaboration. Since his uncontested election in April as JLC chair, he has brought in the brightest and the best to help the organisation’s programming.

As former chairman of Partnership for Jewish Schools, one of Goldstein’s main focuses has been on education and he gets a lot of feedback from his own children. “My daughter was a madricha (leader) on Israel tour this year and she was really surprised that the basic knowledge of modern Jewish history and even reading Hebrew was not strong enough for kids who have been in Jewish schools.”

So the JLC is rolling out a new curriculum in modern Jewish history and another in basic Hebrew reading.

“We have an opportunity not just to educate but to inspire our children,” he says. “There is no one-size-fits-all, and we need to find that spark in people. “We have to get our kids involved in the community. One way to do that is to get them educated really well.”

One of his election pledges was to streamline the community’s 2,000 charities and he has brought in a hand-picked team of Andy Rubin, Stephen Zimmerman and Lord Livingston, working with auditors and accountants from Deloitte.  He is hopeful that by Pesach 2018 there will be an initial report on improving the financial infrastructure of the community.

We have to get our kids involved in the community. One way to do that is to get them educated really well.

“They’re doing a top-down analysis of the charities and will work on ways in which they can save money.”

In a similar exercise, Goldstein has persuaded the former chief executive of Manchester City Council, Sir Howard Bernstein, to chair a commission looking at the social care world, together with Baronesses Julia Neuberger and Ros Altmann and the chairs and chief executives of the relevant Jewish charities in the field.

Also on his target list is the hitherto overlooked issue of teenage mental health. Although he believes Anglo-Jewry is “an exemplar” to the secular world, he is confident there are areas that need improvement.

Jonathan led a delegation of communal leaders to meet Theresa May at Downing Street last month

Jonathan led a delegation of communal leaders to meet Theresa May at Downing Street last month

Any conversation with the JLC inevitably comes round to the on-and-off courtship dance between it and the Board of Deputies, who does what, which is the community’s “true representative”, whether one organisation is going to subsume the other. Goldstein makes clear that while he does not like the word “subsume”, his preference is for one organisation.

Nevertheless, he says he is on good terms with Board president Jonathan Arkush, that they speak often, and that the JLC will not step in on political issues with which he believes the Board to be dealing well. This did not prevent Goldstein writing a Sunday Times op-ed in the wake of the Labour Party conference, wondering what would be the atmosphere and the future for a Jewish community having to deal with Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

He is conscious that in recent months, groups on the community’s right and left have complained they are not represented by centrist organisations such as the JLC or Board. On the right are protests against a planned Golders Green mosque, on the left is the new Jewish Voice for Labour.

“Let’s look at the mosque issue. There is a point at which valid planning objections become fronts for a different agenda,” he says. “In August I got deluged by a number of people who had no geographical locus to that mosque. When you looked at the social media protests, 90 percent of people were not protesting for genuine local planning issues. 

“Someone in shul asked me what I was doing about it. I said, absolutely nothing, other than promoting the right of a mosque to exist in exactly the same way as we want JW3 to exist a couple of miles up the road. I saw the Board of Deputies was taking a strong position on this, so I thought it was duplication if the JLC did something as well.”

In relation to the Jewish Voice for Labour, he says: “I know for a fact that some of these people have been reached out to – but they don’t want to be reached out to because they don’t regard themselves as members of the Jewish community in the way we
perceive ourselves to be.

As far as Labour is concerned, he is seeking an understanding of “why Jews feel threatened”.

“It is deeply uncomfortable for us that such organisations are used by the [Labour] leadership as an opportunity and an example. But I don’t doubt for a minute [Labour] know they are not representative of our community.”

On one thing Goldstein is absolutely clear. “I am happy to talk to anyone, but I will not engage with organisations that deny the right of Israel to exist, or with individuals who at their core do not believe Israel should exist.”

As far as Labour is concerned, he is seeking an understanding of “why Jews feel threatened”.

He explains: “No other ethnic minority is required to justify itself, but we as Jews are. No, we’re told, that’s not anti-Semitic.

“When you have a chief of staff in the Labour office who has written about Israel killing
Palestinians on an industrial scale, we know what that language is intended to refer to.”

He’s not ready, he says, to go reaching out to the Labour Party. “They know where we are. We issued an invitation to Mr Corbyn to come to the Balfour dinner and that has been rejected, which was a disappointment to us, because that would have been an opportunity to show that he understands our issues.”