The race to become the next president of the Board of Deputies was hotting up this morning with the news that Jonathan Arkush is to stand.
The lawyer joins journalist and fellow Vice President Alex Brummer as the only candidates to have thrown their hats into the ring. In a surprise move, Laura Marks, one of the favourites for the top job, announced last week she would instead stand in the vice-Presidential contest in May.
Arkush said being vice-president and chair of the Board’s defence division for the past six years “have given me extensive experience in combatting antisemitism, warding off attacks on Shechita and Brit Milah and fighting the obsessive hostility directed at the State of Israel. I have always led from the front”.
In a private email seen by the Jewish News last month, he voiced fears over a potential Labour victory in the General Election and suggested the re-election of David Cameron would be in the community’s best interests. He also hit out at the BBC’s Middle East coverage following comments from its television chief Danny Cohen that he had never felt so uncomfortable as a Jew in Britain.
Saying he had received support from “diverse parts of the community for his candidacy, Arkush added: “At a time of deep communal anxiety about our security and what the future might hold for British Jews, it has never been more important for our community to be robustly defended.” He has also launched attacks on UKIP and he BBC in recent months.
In 2013, he drew the ire of the Jewish Leadership Council for a public attack in which he described it as “unelectable, unaccountable and unacceptable”. He later offered an apology but was removed from a JLC-Board liaison body.
Marks, the founder of Mitzvah Day, said it had been an “incredibly difficult” decision to not run for the top job.
But she said: “The Board is a wonderful organisation and I’m proud to be part of it. But to be president requires full-time commitment to a range of issues, including developing the role of the Board in the community. The agenda where I can make a difference for the community is to focus on our essential interfaith relationships, community cohesion and inclusion.”
Brummer, the Daily Mail’s City editor, said career has given him the knowledge and contacts within politics and business to help be effective as president. He also believes there is “much in the communal architecture that needs fixing”.
Meanwhile, former United Synagogue President Simon Hochhauser told the Jewish News he was still mulling a run for either president or vice-president but would only seek to succeed Vivian Wineman if other candidates “platform and skills did not match the requirements of the community”. He said there were “at least two interesting candidates”.