JLC cashes in on Board game

On July 17, members of the Board of Deputies were privileged to witness a PowerPoint presentation given by Mick Davis, chair of the United Jewish Israel Appeal and head of the trustees of the Jewish Leadership Council. By all accounts, the presentation triggered a heated debate, informed not so much by the presentation itself as by anger at remarks Mr Davis had made in another forum last November, when he unleashed a series of criticisms of the state of Israel and of the policies pursued by its elected government.

I addressed these criticisms in my column of December 3, and you will be relieved to know that I do not intend to revisit them now. On these matters, I've had my say just as Mr Davis has had his. I want instead to examine in some detail the nuts and bolts of the more recent PowerPoint presentation.

This spelled out the New Order for the future governance of British Jewry. As such, it is a document of the utmost importance. It deserves and demands the most careful scrutiny.

Entitled, The JLC and the Board of Deputies: Working Together, the presentation included, as its centrepiece, a structural diagram illustrating how the JLC is constituted.

In British Jewry, money has always commanded instant attention.

Its council of membership currently includes the heads (or, presumably, nominees) of some 19 communal bodies, all of them charities. The Board of Deputies naturally has a seat at this table. Perhaps as a consolation for that seat's being just one of many, the Board's current president, Vivian Wineman, chairs the JLC's council. But that is the extent of the consolation with which the deputies can console themselves.

In apologising for this state of affairs, Mr Davis insisted that "this constant claim that the JLC is a self-elected, unappointed bunch of people is just absolute nonsense. It is made up of constituent members… The major charities of this community are entitled to get themselves together and form an umbrella body as they wish."

Well, of course they are. They could all join the Board of Deputies - indeed, some of them are already represented at the Board. So why have they sought places also at the table of the JLC?

Before answering this question, I want to draw your attention to the next slide in Mr Davis's presentation, entitled "key operating principles". These include the assertion that the JLC's legitimacy is grounded in its being "a properly mandated 'umbrella body' for Jewish charitable organisations working in the community", the promise that the JLC "will avoid wherever possible competition with its members" and the warning that "the JLC will be fully transparent in its workings with its members" - but only "wherever circumstances permit".

In other words, the JLC has not precluded itself from competing with organisations that are currently in membership of it, and has additionally signalled that it reserves to itself the right to act in a clandestine manner should it deem this necessary to achieve its self-ascribed objectives.

These, apparently, have included and do include the shaping of a communal strategy for education and schools; preparing for "the unexpected", institutionalising (whatever that means) "key political relationships" and addressing "the communal architecture". Among its successes, which Mr Davis helpfully enumerates in another slide, is the co-ordination of a "communal public affairs strategy".

All these responsibilities - and others listed by Mick Davis for future action - could be discharged by the Board of Deputies. But the fact of the matter is that, whether the Deputies like it or not, they have been and are being surreptitiously migrated to the JLC. And I suspect that is of no concern whatever to Mr Davis and the other moneyed individuals who clearly dominate the JLC and all its works.

In British Jewry, money has always had a habit of commanding instant attention. That is the answer to the question I posed earlier in this column.

The Anglo-Jewish moneyed classes have deserted the Deputies and have instead transferred their affections to the JLC where - without too much if any public scrutiny - they can control much more closely how their money is spent, and dictate (again, without too much if any public scrutiny) who spends it.

That is the fact of life to which Mick Davis pointed in his presentation. It clearly pleased him. It frightens me.

Last updated: 10:21am, July 29 2011