The Board grows fangs at long last

Scrolling through the archive of press releases from the Board would leave you with the impression that its main activity in recent years has been paying courtesy calls on embassies around London.

But something appears to have changed in the past few weeks.

A series of statements on assorted issues suggests that British Jewry’s main representative body wants to be seen as more assertive and vocal. An organisation for which “concern” appeared to be the strongest word in its vocabulary, has now turned into “Angry, of Bloomsbury Square”.

Only this week, the Board hit out at the EU, saying its policy statement in support of the division of Jerusalem “casts doubt on the EU’s credibility” as an honest broker in the Middle East.

It also slammed a “disgraceful” alternative carol concert at a London church which adapted traditional Christmas songs to lambast Israel.

And in a statement with other organisations, it called on the government to drop the lecturers’ union, UCU, from a working party on antisemitism after a “grossly offensive” invitation to a South African activist who had been involved in “hate speech against Jews”.

The Board has come in for stick for not being sufficiently outspoken, especially in defence of Israel. None more so than from the former Australian leader Isi Leibler, who has made a sport of bashing Anglo-Jewish leaders. They have a “tradition of burying their heads in the sand,” he recently huffed in the Jerusalem Post, “determined not to rock the boat in any circumstances”.

So have Board staff been taken off paintballing to harness their aggressive instincts? Whatever the change in perception, leaders deny any conscious policy decision to be put on a more forceful public face.

The president, Vivian Wineman, who was elected in May, says: “The honorary officers and I have wanted to illustrate that the Board is robust on issues relevant to the community.”

One insider felt that the organisation had become “more pro-active”, citing the letter sent to David Miliband last week before the EU statement. Another said the Board is “slowly but surely, getting its act together”.

What has made a difference is the arrival of new communications director Atalia Cadranel. She was, he said, “our weapon in the new era.”

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010