By Marcus Dysch
January 23, 2013
I've been attending and reporting on Board of Deputies meetings for a couple of years.
At my first meeting the biggest surprise came when I discovered that, far from being the august, grand debating chamber of the community that I had expected it to be, the Board plenary was more akin to a shouty shul council meeting a with a bit of a Vicar of Dibley-style shambles thrown in.
I've since discussed those impressions with Board veterans, newcomers and outsiders alike, and have heard many of them express similar views.
Today I came across an excellent blog by Hampstead Synagogue deputy Amanda Ruback.
Elected last May, Amanda has found the Board "a tough nut to crack".
She points out:
At first it was just the behaviour more suited to a primary school playground at Plenaries that floored me – all the shouting and ‘Points of Order’ and debates that weren’t debates – I felt like I was the only person that found this alien and I wondered whether the Deputies that seemed to thrive in that setting acted in the same way in other aspects of their lives.
Amanda's blog is well worth a read on the Changing the Board website. It is in full here.
I must say, in fairness, that Sunday's debate on the Oxfam project was as civilised and well-organised as any I've seen at the Board. Deputies debated sensibly, politely and intelligently. I know that doesn't sound like much of an achievement, but compared to past discussions I've witnessed there, it was a marked difference.
These are steps in the right direction for sure, but Amanda's experiences suggest there is still some work to be done. Let us all hope the evident changes taking place at the Board help raise the standard of debate and behaviour to levels of which we can, as a community, all be proud.