Debate rages on Board-JLC merger as consultation begins

Debate rages on Board-JLC merger as consultation begins

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Elected cabinets and two separate houses of representatives are among the ideas being floated in a wide-ranging consultation on the proposed merger between the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), writes Stephen Oryszczuk.

Ahead of Sunday’s meeting, a list of “ten propositions” was sent to Deputies, alongside a letter explaining that an outside consultant will run the consultation.

“The key concept here is that the Board and the JLC join to form a fresh new organisation,” it reads. It continued: “Current thinking is to have ‘two houses’… The ‘House of Deputies,’ composed of representatives elected by synagogues, communities and organisations, and a ‘House of Organisations’ composed of heads of major communal organisations.”

The propositions – debated by the Deputies on Sunday – include an elected president, an appointed cabinet and “the power of censure/recall open to the two houses” in a forum similar to the Board Plenary.

Sunday’s meeting to discuss the merger drew strong reactions. Several Deputies suggested that the JLC should become part of the Board, with one saying: “The small group of individuals leading the JLC just want to use name of 250-year old organisation to increase their own power base.” Another Deputy warned: “Democracy appears to be being sacrificed.”

Among the debate about representation, Deputies raised other concerns. “The section of the community that has expanded the most is the Charedi community, which is not represented either at the Board or the JLC,” said one.

After the debate, Joe Millis, Deputy for Bromley Reform, wrote to the President of the Board, Vivian Wineman, asking that an emergency motion be put before Deputies at next meeting on July 21.

“I want talks to be halted until Deputies have a debate over whether we actually want a tie up,” said Millis.

“It seems that we are putting the horse before the cart. We were presented with 10 propositions at Sunday’s Plenany, with no other options. Talks have gone ahead in what seems to many of us to be an under-handed way and Deputies feels that they are being blindsided.”

He continued: “My main concern is governance. The JLC is, to all intents and purposes, a body that was set up and run by people with the good charitable intentions of kindly rich people… This could easily turn the representative body into a kind of oligarchy. Are we to return to the days of Montefiore and Rothschild?”

The Joint Liaison Group set up to facilitate discussions has welcomed the beginning of consultations, with co-chair Leo Noé saying: “We need to hear all opinions and ideas.  Creating a framework that serves our Community best and taking into account democracy, best practice, representation and strong leadership must be our top priority.”

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