Leaders back campaign to end all-male panels

By Sandy Rashty, September 13, 2013
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Senior figures are backing a move to put an end to communal discussion panels that feature only male speakers.

More than 50 decision-makers, from synagogues, charities and political lobby groups, have signed up to a campaign being run by Women in Jewish Leadership (WJL).

Signatories have pledged to: “Try to avoid convening, speaking on, chairing or moderating all-male panels at communal events, with the aim of ensuring that equally qualified women are included whenever possible.”

Supporters include the heads of the United Synagogue, Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, the Liberal, Reform and Masorti movements.

They are joined by Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman, Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Jeremy Newmark, and Danny Stone, director of the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism foundation.

Jewish Care chairman Steven Lewis, Norwood chair Bernie Myers and JW3 CEO Raymond Simonson have also given their backing, along with Times and JC columnist, Lord Finkelstein, and Guardian and JC columnist Jonathan Freedland.

WJL co-chair Laura Marks said the campaign aimed to tackle the lack of female representation in Jewish public life. She rejected the suggestion that the move might result in unqualified women speakers replacing a qualified men on panels.

“We don’t believe that at all. But people need to think about having more voices on a panel,” she said

WJL is in dialogue with its American counterpart — the Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community (AWP) — whose signatories have adopted the tactic of boycotting male-only panels. Ms Marks ruled out a boycott in this country.

“I do hope we don’t ever get so confrontational,” said Ms Marks.

“Culturally, the Americans are very different to us. We believe there is a more constructive approach and want to convince people that is the way forward.”

Last updated: 9:45am, September 13 2013