Loud and clear opinions wanted

By Ben Rich, May 28, 2014
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Will they be on the list? Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Will they be on the list? Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Unbelievably, it is six years since the JC last published its list of the 100 people who most influence the Jewish community. Editing the list then was a task which I undertook with a degree of trepidation. Surely people would realise it was just a bit of fun?

Not a bit of it. I and the other judges were lobbied, threatened, even offered lunch. It clearly mattered and not just within the community. The Times wrote a whole article about how Lord Sugar was not on the list, while some politicians let it be known they were unhappy with their parties’ representation.

I have no doubt that the panel made enemies. So why would I put my neck on the line again? Quite simply, because in the past six years the community has changed in many ways and the exercise now bears repeating.

After the 2008 list, the JC editor and I agreed that it was unlikely there would be much change at the top while Lord Sacks remained Chief Rabbi. But has Rabbi Mirvis yet established himself as the unchallenged leader of a community of which — the recent JPR survey tells us — barely a quarter describe themselves as traditional?

Almost the same percentage say that they are secular or cultural Jews, so who is their champion? And what of the new voice of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Janner-Klausner, and the new institutions of JW3 or Yachad?

According to the 2011 Census, the vast majority of provincial communities continue to shrink. Do they have influence beyond their numerical strength? What of the Lincoln member — Gillian Merron — soon to become the Board of Deputies CEO?

There is barely a single communal professional who remains in post since the panel last sat. Are the new appointees as influential as their predecessors?

How do we compare the influence of such professionals with that of the lay leaders, the rabbis and the philanthropists that fund these organisations?

And what of the figures whose influence may be less direct but every bit as significant? How Jewish is Ed Miliband and how influential Michael Gove — not Jewish, but without whom there would be far fewer Jewish schools?

What of the Lucases and Baron Cohens, Lipmans and Baddiels, all “out and proud” role models for our community? We are at least clear on one thing: this is not a reward for long service or do-gooding. We are instead concerned with those whose activities promote and inspire Jewish life in this country.

One other change from 2008 will aid us in our deliberations. The growth of social media enables JC readers to join the debate more avidly than ever before. So I hope that you will take the opportunity to nominate your personal favourites, blackball those you cannot stand and generally be thoroughly opinionated.

Let the arguments and criticisms, praise and blame, proposing and opposing begin.

Last updated: 4:53pm, May 29 2014