United Synagogue president criticises ‘terrible judgement’ at Board of Deputies
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United Synagogue president criticises ‘terrible judgement’ at Board of Deputies

Michael Goldstein uses social media to challenge decision to invite Corbynista MP Angela Rayner to Board's Chanukah reception, calling for "more considered leadership”.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Lips are being pressed tightly all over the organised Jewish community after the president of the United Synagogue, Michael Goldstein, used social media to challenge a decision of the Board of Deputies to invite Corbynista MP Angela Rayner to its Chanukah reception next month.

The controversial invitation to Ms Rayner, shadow education secretary, was attacked at the end of last week by Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard. In a comment piece for his newspaper, he said it was an “idiotic, craven and deeply counter-productive decision”.

He added: “This invitation is a disgrace. It is a betrayal of every one of the victims of Corbynite abuse. It is a betrayal of our community’s stand against Labour antisemitism. And it is a damning indictment of the Board of Deputies leadership”.

A Board of Deputies plenary, with President Marie van der Zyl (second left), elected earlier this year.

Marie van der Zyl, the Board president, hit back at Pollard’s column, accusing him of misogyny. She said: “Why is it that when men say these things, they are ‘tough’, and when I say them, I have apparently ‘lost the plot’?” She insisted that “engagement” did not mean “concession” and said it was important for the community’s leadership to speak to Labour’s education and foreign shadow ministers.

United Synagogue president Michael Goldstein (centre) with Mark Regev (right) and Jordanian ambassador Mazen Hamoud.

But there was worse to come for Ms van der Zyl, when the president of the United Synagogue, Michael Goldstein, climbed into the debate. In a tweet on Sunday, he wrote: “This [the invitation to Ms Rayner] is a terrible judgement call by the Board of Deputies,” adding: “We need more considered leadership”.

Mr Goldstein has insisted that he was tweeting in a personal capacity and has refused to make further comment on the matter. But besides being president of the US, he is the brother of the chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jonathan Goldstein, which has led to suggestions on social media that “war” had been declared on the Board of Deputies by both the US and the JLC.

On Monday, the rumour-mill was going strong but nobody wanted to go on the record, from the Board to the United Synagogue. There were even rumours that there were behind-the-scenes interventions to urge everyone involved to cool off. But this, again, could not be confirmed.

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