My Week: Jonathan Arkush

By Jonathan Arkush, August 7, 2012

● The week begins rather too early, with a pick-up at 2 am to Liverpool for the early flight to Belfast. I am booked in at BBC's Northern Ireland studio to debate circumcision on Sunday Morning Live. A court in Cologne has decided that the circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim was an assault and brit milah is once again in the spotlight.

● I'm fielding emails on the journey into town on Monday morning, commuter trains permitting. Sometimes, the service breaks down spectacularly. As well as my role at the Board of Deputies, I have day jobs as a barrister, mediator and part-time judge. Most of the day is spent on work, but I just manage to get to a late afternoon meeting relating to the London Olympics. The agenda includes assessing the threat level to the community, plans for the forthcoming Guildhall event marking the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre, and looking after the needs of Jewish visitors and the Israeli delegation.

● Then it's straight into another meeting to consider relations with the Church of England in the aftermath of the Synod's regrettable decision to endorse the controversial Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme. Chairing the Board division responsible for interfaith relations means that I spend a great deal of time working on our dialogue with other faiths. Our conversations are aimed at broadening mutual understanding and working against the ignorance that causes prejudice. We can make common cause on many matters where we need to work together, particularly given that our society is predominantly secular. The community is fortunate to have strong stable organisations to protect our way of life.

● Back in chambers, I get deeply immersed in preparing for a trial. Boxes of ring-binders arrive to be read and absorbed. There are meetings with the solicitors and clients and the deadline looms for submission of the written argument for the judge.

● I am lucky to have a wonderfully supportive family. My wife has grown accustomed to me dashing around but I try hard to sit down to a civilised meal - at least occasionally. With a bit of luck, we get to the theatre or opera, but not as much as we would like. Only one of our three children is at home, but on Wednesday night we make it to Heathrow to meet our youngest on her return from a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I also squeeze in a visit to my amazing parents. My father, at 98, wants to know everything I've been doing and my mother usually asks some tough questions.

● Organising the defence of our community involves consulting with communal bodies across the political and religious spectrum. This week includes discussions with CST, the Union of Jewish Students, experts on brit milah and shechitah, Israel advocacy bodies and colleagues at the Board. I work closely with the our small team of dedicated professional staff who are a vital source of sound advice. People perhaps don't realise that our community works in a joined-up way. Disagreements are few and usually quickly resolved. I see our community as thriving in its energy and variety. It's hard work moving its agenda forward through never-ending meetings, phone calls and emails, but it gives me enormous satisfaction, as well as relief when Shabbat comes round at last.

Jonathan Arkush is a vice-president of the Board of Deputies

Last updated: 5:23pm, August 7 2012