Lord Levy: JLC grabs too much power

By Simon Rocker, January 28, 2011

The Jewish Leadership Council has been accused of trying to grab too much power by its former vice-president Lord Levy.

In an article in today's JC, he reveals that his recent resignation from the council was because of its failure to define "its role or purpose".

A founder member of the council in 2002, Lord Levy, who is president of Jewish Care, said that he had joined it as a forum for charity heads and other leaders to discuss issues facing the Jewish community. But he declared: "I did not envisage the organisation becoming a new power base and expanding its infrastructure - something that is neither necessary nor needed." 

The role of the 29-member council, which has more than doubled its spending from £191,600 in 2007 to £455,900 last year, has come under increasing scrutiny following last week's controversy over its aborted mission to the West Bank.

The JLC's public relations agency, The PR Office, which handles several leading Jewish charities, said at the weekend that it was terminating its contract with the JLC.

The council announced it was postponing the West Bank trip a day after rank and file members of the Board of Deputies reacted angrily to the news that their president Vivian Wineman had been planning to participate.

Manchester Jewish Representative Council Lucille Cohen, who is on the JLC, commented: "The fact that the JLC doesn't seem accountable is resented by many in the community."

But she believed that a new liaison committee to improve relations between the Board and the JLC - planned several months before last week's events - would help. "Hopefully it would allow the JLC to touch base more with the grassroots about what the community does and doesn't support," she said.

JLC trustee Simon Hochhauser, a member of the liaison committee, which is expected to hold its first meeting shortly, acknowledged: "Something has gone wrong".

The committee needed to "set out very clearly" areas of co-operation as well boundaries between the two organisations, he said.

The prime mover behind the West Bank visit is understood to have been JLC trustee Sir Trevor Chinn.

But when Sir Trevor discussed the idea at a board meeting of the Israel advocacy group Bicom a few weeks ago, he encountered "wholesale opposition", according to one source.

This week, Bicom chairman Poju Zabludowicz, a JLC trustee, said that while he believed in "engaging directly with NGOs in the UK, Israel and the Palestinian Authority", the challenge was "to make sure we are doing so by supporting and empowering the appropriate organisations and in a co-ordinated way".

Meanwhile, the Board of Deputies also came under pressure this week following its rejection of an executive-backed resolution stating explicit support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

More than 800 signatures urging the Board to rethink have been collected in an online petition launched by Hannah Weisfeld, who is fronting moves to set up a new Israel campaign group inspired by the American J Street.

Last updated: 10:10am, January 28 2011