In this week’s two voices, the question is wether denomination should play a part in the upcoming Board of Deputies elections?
Jonathan Arkush says…
The Board of Deputies is cross-communal.
It is not a religious body.
Its responsibility is to protect and defend our community.
When threatened, maybe by anti-Semitism, demonisation of Israel and attacks on shechita and brit milah, we unite to resist and defeat attacks.
Our denominational bodies have a proud record of working together for our common good, irrespective of their stance on any particular religious practice or individual levels of observance.
Where religious questions arise, the Board’s constitution requires the president to take advice from our religious authorities, Orthodox and progressive.
When government and others consult us on the Jewish community’s views, we do not prefer one view over another but communicate the range, as happened on the question of single-sex marriage.
The Board’s work crossing communal divides is one of the features that make it special. While debates can be passionate, differences over religious doctrines are hardly heard because deputies know the Board is not the place for them.
I have been a vice-president of the Board and chaired its defence and group relations division for almost six years. My religious affiliation has been irrelevant. At Board elections, the only criterion that should matter is merit: the candidate’s record, experience and suitability for leadership.
Shul is simply irrelevant.
• Jonathan Arkush is vice-president of the Board of Deputies
Andrew Gilbert says…
Should it matter? No. Unless the aim is to create an organisation or policy that is not cross-communal.
The Board is not a religious body.
It is made up of deputies elected mainly from synagogues, from the liberals on the left to some of the Federation on the right.
The ultra-Orthodox community since 1973 has chosen not to be there. On sensitive matters such as brit milah and shechita, the Board finessed the setting up of outside organisations to involve the ultra-Orthodox.
On these two key areas of concern to our community, there has been, in general, a consensus up to this time.
The Board needs to work for a unified position to government, when practical.
Where there are matters of different interest, it needs to represent multiple, even contradictory, positions.
The Board needs as officers not those who are non-denominational but those who understand they cannot be tribal or deliver a policy that is acceptable and helpful to only part of the community.
However, if all the honorary officers end up coming from one denomination, others are left dependent on their understanding of wider communal need.
The leadership must be balanced. The Board must elect capable officers who have the time, skills and wisdom to represent the breadth of our community and work together at a time when more will be expected of them than ever before.
•Andrew Gilbert is deputy for the UJIA