The long-term chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council has passionately defended the organisation’s contribution and expressed regret “closer organisational alignment” with the Board of Deputies was not achieved, as he announced he will not seek re-election.
Sir Mick Davis has served in the role for eight years, during which the number of member organisations has doubled and major strategic changes were introduced in areas such as schools and leadership – prompting plaudits yesterday from across the community.
In a letter to the JLC’s Council of Membership, the former chief executive of Xstarta – who also chaired David Cameron’s Holocaust Commission – said: “The time is right to allow others with equal passion to take the community forward with a fresh vision. The work of the JLC is vital in nurturing a vibrant, forward-thinking and outward-facing Jewish community of Great Britain. It has been inspiring work to lead.”
Former Board of Deputies president and JLC chair, Henry Grunwald, said he was in no doubt Sir Mick “leaves the community in a stronger position”, while recognising there were “few people whose reputation polarises our community like he does”.
During his tenure, the JLC was attacked as “unrepresentative and undemocratic” including very publicly by current Board president Jonathan Arkush.
Despite being a prominent supporter of Jewish and Israel causes, Sir Mick also faced criticism over his repeated criticism of Israel’s leadership in regard to the peace process and warning of the consequences of not achieving a two-state solution. As he told JLC members he was “proud the community stands unapologetically with Israel” ahead of the Balfour centenary, the country’s Ambassador Mark Regev described him as “one of the pillars of British Jewry and I thank him for his friendship and support”.
Grunwald, writing in today’s Jewish News, said: “His vision and strategic thought led the JLC to institute commissions on Jewish schools, from which emerged Partnerships for Jewish Schools, on Women in Jewish Leadership, from which came the Women in Jewish leadership programmes; on Informal Provision for Young People, from which came Reshet and on synagogue vitality. He strengthened the JLC’s political engagement and its structures to counter BDS, raised the funds to counter delegitimisation of Israel and spoke strongly in support of leadership development, and Jewish and Israel education.”
Michael Gove, who sat on the Holocaust Commission with Sir Mick, said his years “set the standard for communal leadership” and the country owed a “huge” debt. He added: “He has the courage to speak his mind, even when others disagree, the determination to defend his principles even when it comes at a cost, and the drive to translate vision into action.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Sir Mick “has relentlessly and generously committed himself to the betterment of Jewish life in the UK, in Israel and beyond”, while Reform Judaism’s Senior Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “He brings courage, warmth and endless generosity of heart as well as philanthropic generosity.”
Sir Mick said in his letter to council members that “our communal architecture is not fit for purpose” with too many charities competing for the “same space and resource”. He added: “I must note my regret that the Board of Deputies and JLC could not achieve closer organisational alignment during my tenure… I am, however pleased that a positive working relationship exists between the two executive teams – when that prevails the community prospers.”
Answering questions over how representative his organisation now is, he said: “Our membership now comprises most synagogue bodies, almost all the welfare organisations, almost all the Israel and Zionist organisations and those that secure and educate our community. Far from being unrepresentative, the JLC has provided real representation for the 21st century.
Any council members are eligible to stand for the role, with nominations closing in two weeks.
Jewish News understands that Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of PaJeS, is considering running.