Pack leader enjoys landslide win at US

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

The new United Synagogue president is Stephen Pack, who scored a landslide victory over outgoing US vice-president Peter Zinkin in Monday's poll.

Mr Pack, 61, is president of Hadley Wood, a satellite of Cockosters and North Southgate Synagogue. He attributed his 124-42 vote victory to his emphasis on making the US more attractive to younger people.

"My manifesto was entitled Securing the Future for the Next Generation," he said. "I think that had real resonance with the shuls."

However, he was "very pleasantly surprised" by his margin of victory. "I had no idea it was going to be three-to-one," he said. "That was amazing."

Persuasive canvassing and a confident performance in last week's hustings helped to secure his three-year term. His son Anthony kept the campaign on track while he was recovering from surgery a few weeks ago.

A US vice-president for the past three years and treasurer for the previous six, Mr Pack retired from leading financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers last year. He does some business consultancy but pledged that the US "will come first".

His plans include building up a group of young men and women to serve as shadow trustees, increasing local synagogue autonomy and offering incentive schemes for US members to use kosher restaurants and caterers.

In his manifesto, he spelt out the need to rejuvenate an organisation whose average membership age is over 60.

The best attended US council meeting in years also reflected the keen competition in the first election for women's representatives at trustee meetings. Doreen Samuels of Pinner Synagogue and Naomi Landy of Hendon pipped three other candidates and will join the two co-chairs of United Synagogue Women around the trustee table. Women cannot yet serve as voting trustees.

Mr Pack's first key task will be to sort out the recruitment process for the next Chief Rabbi. "Over the next few days I'll be putting together some thoughts on how we should construct the group to recommend the appointment," he said. "I'd like it to be representative of all the various stakeholders."

He hoped the group would involve his immediate predecessors as president, Simon Hochhauser and Peter Sheldon.

Mr Sheldon, currently chairman of the Chief Rabbinate Trust, supported Mr Pack's presidential bid.

Last updated: 3:57pm, July 14 2011