The senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies has thrown her hat into the ring to become the organisation’s next president – and was immediately forced to insist she would work for the benefit of all strands of Anglo-Jewry, writes Justin Cohen

Despite being widely tipped to stand for the top job, the founder of Mitzvah Day announced in February that doing so would not enable her the time to focus on the interfaith work she had developed.

Laura-Marks-400x310But, becoming the fourth candidate to throw her hat into the ring, she told the Jewish News today that the clamour for her to stand had been too great. “The Job too big and important not to try,” Marks said.

“I have seven years of full-time experience working in the community, a record of making things happen , am totally committed to cross-communality and have the energy and enthusiasm to bring people along with me. The Jewish community needs to continue to face outwards and shine and that’s what I want to ensure we do.” A priority would be to further develop relationships with other faith communities and wider society, she said.

“Strong, positive leadership” was needed, she added, particularly at a time “when people are anxious about the future”.

Marks, a deputy for the Movement for reform Judaism, also responded to claims from US President Steve Pack that her election could be “divisive”. She said: “My relationship with the United Synagogue and my respect for its members, practices, rabbis and lay leaders is strong and positive. I believe that were I to become president this would continue and I would work endlessly to ensure that it thrived for the benefit of the Board, the US and most importantly, the community at large.”

She also gave a clear signal of her intentions regarding the hot potato of bringing the Board and Jewish Leadership Council closer together, saying “to squander resources when times are tough is ridiculous. I’m completely committed to finding a way to bring these two organisations closer together as both have huge amounts to offer the community”.

Tackled on her reasons for ruling out a presidential bid earlier this year, she said interfaith “remains key but we’ll need to find good people to work with me. The community is blessed wih fantatic people and I’m not the only person who can drive that agenda but I hope others will believe I am the best placed person to lead the Board”.

Jonathan Arkush, Alex Brummer and Richard Cohen have already declared their candidacy for May’s poll. Arkush, in a message to deputies this week, said he had been at the forefront of battling anti-Semitism and standing up for the churches and universities.

But he added: “I have a strong, positive vision which to me transcends even the vital task of protecting an defending our community.

Saying he too had developed strong relationships with senior faith leaders, he added: “The division I have led for six years is responsible for interfaith engagement. The Board has carried out magnificent work here, and I’m strongly committed to presenting my vision of how a diverse, talented and vigorous people as we are, with the Jewish value of a strong social conscious, can demonstrate the enormous contribution of faith in our country.”