A person of no importance?
So tell me, just how important do you think you are? And – scarcely less significant but frightfully important nonetheless — just how important do you think you ought to be?
There is nothing deemed to be more important to the well-being of British Jews than the importance of being important. If any of you ever doubted the truth of this truism, you have only to consider the current row over the decision of the Board of Deputies of British Jews to establish an All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews (APPGBJ) — apparently without bothering to consult any person or organisation that believes she, he, it or they are so important that they ought to have been sounded out prior to the taking of this historic decision.
Take me, for instance.
I know and have reluctantly come to accept that I am just a schnipp, a nobody, a diminutive piece of grit floundering within the machinery of British Jewry, in short a Jew of anomalous insignificance.
It’s true that many years ago the members of a committee of the deputies were summoned to an emergency meeting for the express purpose of condemning me, and that I still have the recording I accidentally made of the proceedings, which I sometimes play in order to console myself that once upon a time I was indeed important, at least to that extent.
But since then my place in the communal hierarchy has plummeted. So you can imagine my surprise when, early last week, I received a voicemail message asking me to telephone a Peer of the Realm.
When I did contact this gentleman (just think of it, a schnipp like me contacted by a Peer of the Realm!), you may well understand my shock on hearing him explain that the APPGBJ was about to be formed, and that he had accepted an invitation to join it.
And now, having read the front page of last Friday’s JC , I realise that I knew about the APPGBJ not merely before its establishment had been formally announced but even before the JC had run the story. It is clear (is it not?) that although I am unimportant, I may well be not quite as inconsequential as others within the community of we British Jews. I am over the moon!
Apparently, however, sundry communal organisations are less than happy that the APPGBJ is being set up, and that it’s being set up without their prior endorsement. One “senior communal source” is quoted as having opined that outside the Board, “no one [except Geoffrey Alderman, of course!] knew” about the new group until 24 hours before it was announced.
Well, why should they have known? Security arrangements for meetings of the APPGBJ will presumably be taken care of by the officers of the Metropolitan Police who keep watch over the Palace of Westminster night and day. So there was certainly no need for the Board to trouble the Community Security Trust (let alone its chief constable, Gerald Ronson) with this matter, was there?
As for the Jewish Leadership Council, my guess is that the JLC would have spared no effort to have killed off the initiative had it been given any advance warning. So if the Board did not, in fact, do so, it for once acted with sound judgment— which is shockingly reassuring.
A second-division communal macher with whom I discussed the APPGBJ and its establishment tried to argue that he could not think of anything useful the APPGBJ might do that was not already done by some other communal agency.
This is true, but it’s an old argument that’s always trotted out when someone wants to form a new Anglo-Jewish committee, commission or working party. Indeed, even to ask the question is to betray a woeful ignorance of why such committees, commissions and/or working parties are convened in the first place.
Friends, they are not (with a handful of honourable exceptions) called into being to perform any function other than to inflate the sense of importance of those who establish and service them. That, I take it, is the primary motive behind the APPGBJ’s conception.
On a personal level I’m delighted I knew about the APPGBJ before most of you. But as the author of several learned monographs on British government I’m plutzing that I’ve not been invited to serve at least in some advisory capacity. But then I’m not really important, am I?