EXCLUSIVE: Two weigh bid for Board presidency

EXCLUSIVE: Two weigh bid for Board presidency

Leaders of the community during a meeting at JFS
Leaders of the community during a meeting at JFS

The starting gun was fired in the race to become the Board of Deputies next president this week after two senior deputies became the first to declare they could run.

Laurence Brass said he is considering “the options” and is yet to make a “final decision”.

Leaders of the community during a meeting at JFS
Leaders of the community during a meeting at JFS

But the current Board treasurer – who drew anger after speaking following a visit to the region of the “miserable” conditions of some Palestinian villagers and of his “shock” that attacks by settlers “goes unchecked by the IDF” – claimed to have been “approached by a growing number of Deputies to carry the banner for the substantial group who are politically if not religiously progressive.”

He added: “There is a place for a radical orthodox view.

Former president of the United Synagogue Simon Hochhauser also revealed to the Jewish News he would consider standing to be the Board of Deputies’ next leader if other “well qualified” candidates don’t throw their hats into the ring.

No one has yet formally declared their candidacy for next June’s poll but there is widespread speculation that at least two of the current vice-presidents would contest the election.

Hochhauser, who is one of the US’s deputies on the Board, said it was natural for people to look first at the current Board trustees as possible successors to president Vivian Wineman at the scheduled election next year.

He said: “There are potential candidates with good experience and who are at this stage understandably perceived to be better qualified as a result of their experience as trustees, but I’m keeping the situation under review. I would seriously consider standing if any existing trustee I felt I could back decided not to stand.”

Hochhauser stressed the priority, at this stage, of policy over personality in deciding who to back at a time of huge focus on the Board’s role. “If I think there is a policy I could support, and a candidate who is eminently suited to carry it out, why I would I want to stand in their way? It would be wrong to do so.”

“I think a lot of the current debate, if you drill down, comes down to a lack of clarity over the role of the Board. Over the years we’ve lost track of this and questions around leadership stem from the fuzziness over what the Board’s about. I do believe that once we have real clarity on the purpose and structure of the Board, other matters, such as the relationship with the JLC, would automatically resolve themselves.”

He made clear he opposes any suggestion of a bloc vote by US deputies. “It would be truly wrong for the Board of Deputies to become a denominational battleground. It’s not there for that, it’s here to represent the whole community, regardless of religious affiliation. It’s also highly likely any denomination that tries to get nominees to act by diktat regarding candidates or policy will create the opposite effect. The Board should reflect passionate debate on policy issues and this should not be primarily rooted in denominational difference.”

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