Continually Spreading Trust

A month ago today, the second most senior police officer in the Metropolitan Police, Deputy Commissioner Tim Godwin, chaired a meeting at New Scotland Yard. A source close to the Community Security Trust told me that the meeting had been held, and that, apart from Deputy Commissioner Godwin the only persons present were representatives of the CST and the Jewish Police Association.

According to the Met's press office, the reason for the meeting was to deliberate on how these three bodies might work together "to achieve a secure and confident London Jewish community." How curious, therefore, that while the CST had been invited, the Board of Deputies had not.

In my JC column of April 15, while acknowledging that the CST probably did valuable work providing security and security advice, and collecting and publishing security-related data, I asked whether it could justly claim to "represent" the Jewish community.

I asked this question in the context of its sizeable budget, the large salaries paid to certain of its employees, and the fact that the names of its trustees were hidden from public view.

Protected by the Home Office and the Met, it had, he said, got too big for its boots

This seemed to me a perfectly reasonable question to ask. When the JC published in response a letter of condemnation signed by no less than 27 communal grandees, including six vice-presidents of the Jewish Leadership Council, I knew that I had been right to ask the question, and that it had been the right question to ask.

But what I did not know when I researched and composed that article was that other members of British Jewry - rather less self-important individuals than the aforementioned 27 protesters – felt exactly as I did.

Take, for example, the Manchester-based rabbi who contacted me to say how deeply he resented the intrusion of the CST into the affairs of his community - he meant the CST's insistence that he consult them when planning any communal event.

Take the south-of-England rabbi who phoned me to complain of the telling-off he had received from the CST because, without their consent, he and his lay leadership had agreed to permit a local non-Jewish group to meet on synagogue premises.

Or take the Charedi community activist who asked to meet me (which he did) in order to unburden himself of the deep cynicism with which he regarded the CST.

It had, in his view, got too big for its boots while basking in the privilege and protection it received from the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police.

Then there is Nochum Perlberger, the head of the Stamford Hill Shomrim - who provide civilian security patrols and whose efforts to counter crime and anti-social behaviour have had exceptional results. Mr Perlberger confessed to me that one of the conditions of their recognition by the police in Stoke Newington was that they liaise with the CST.

And last, but by no means least, take the Jewish Police Association.

Ethnically-based police associations are not everyone's cup of tea. But Jewish members of the police service (which included my own maternal grandfather, incidentally) have special needs and, as professional crime-fighters, can make a unique contribution to cementing the relationship between the police and the UK's Jewish citizens, many of whom come from backgrounds laden with suspicion of anyone wearing anything resembling a uniform.

So it was natural that Mr Perlberger and his friends should have turned to the JPA for advice when the Shomrim were being formed. It was equally natural that the JPA should want to liaise with Jewish schools, and introduce themselves to Jewish communities.

Natural, yes. But with the blessing of the CST? Hardly. As Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler, one of the JPA's chaplains, put it to me, "there have been some tensions between the JPA and the CST in the past. However, a meeting was held recently between the Met and both those organisations, and it is hoped that they have now been smoothed out."

Which brings us back to the meeting chaired by Deputy Commissioner Godwin on May 10.

My understanding is that this gathering was instigated by the CST, and that its purpose was to make it clear to the JPA that they must take no initiative without the CST's knowledge and approval.

Is this what the 27 aforementioned communal bigwigs really meant when they referred to the Community Security Trust's "meaningful representation"?

    Last updated: 10:44am, June 10 2011