Board merger on knife edge as JLC rift grows

By Simon Rocker, September 12, 2013
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Plans to merge the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council were left hanging in the balance this week amid a deepening rift between them.

JLC leaders cancelled a scheduled meeting with the Board on Tuesday to discuss unification, following anger at the Board’s failure to consult them about the launch of a new parliamentary group on Jewish affairs.

While the Board issued a statement to pledge its commitment to continue talks, one deputy described the situation behind the scenes as “war”.

Leo Noe, who chairs the JLC delegation on the joint liaison committee with the Board which had been due to meet this week, is understood to be fuming at the Board’s actions.

A source close to Mr Noe said that the philanthropist believed that the Board’s decision not to consult the JLC or other communal organisations over the new parliamentary group had made a “mockery” of the liaison committee.

Out of the blue last month the Board announced that it had agreed to be the secretariat to a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews.

The JLC has now asked the Board to acknowledge it had mishandled the creation of the APPG by neglecting to confer with other community organisations.

A letter was drawn up by JLC liaison committee representatives for the Board to sign as a way to make amends. But Board leaders have so far been unwilling to agree to the gesture.

According to a draft of the letter, the Board was asked to write to Mr Noe to say that “we do realise that it would have been helpful if other stakeholders had been advised before we went public and with hindsight recognise that a fuller consultation would have been more constructive”.

The JLC is also frustrated that it has not received a firm pledge from the Board to share the estimated £30,000-£50,000 cost of a consultation on unification.

In an official statement, the Board expressed regret at “the postponement” of this week’s meeting and said that its leaders remained “committed to the goal of creating a unified structure to represent British Jewry”.

But a JLC spokesman said that the meeting had been called off because the Board had indicated “they were not able to make two specific important short-term commitments that had been expected at this stage in the discussions”.

He added: “To move to the next stage we need to see the Board deliver on the agreed principle of fairly sharing the resourcing of the process and promoting the right environment for constructive engagement”.

A Board spokesman said that it previously made clear that it would contribute to the cost of consultation.

As for complying with the JLC’s demand for the Board to admit mistakes over the APPG, he added: “There has been lots of discussion in private about setting up the APPG but we don’t think the process will be helped by playing that out in public.”

Last updated: 2:45pm, September 12 2013