Board man who blasted 'unaccountable' JLC forced to make humiliating apology

By Simon Rocker, March 1, 2012

The senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush, who launched an outspoken attack on the Jewish Leadership Council a week ago, this week made a public apology.

In a letter circulated to deputies by the Board, Mr Arkush said that he accepted his remarks were "inappropriate". He blamed them on being "unwell".

Mr Arkush said he was in particular "sorry to have made references to any financial matters. I withdraw those remarks in their entirety. There was no suggestion of impropriety."

He had previously questioned whether the member organisations of the JLC had come under pressure from donors to remain on the council and whether the Manchester and Leeds Jewish Representative Council had received payments when joining it.

Mr Arkush had also called the council "unelected, unaccountable and...unacceptable".

He should consider taking a break from communal politics

His comments drew a furious response from JLC chairman Mick Davis, who warned that JLC members might consider withdrawing funding from the Board. Board president Vivian Wineman said that he and Mr Arkush - who were both on a Board mission in Israel with other Board officers last week - had "talked it through and he realised that an apology was appropriate".

But Mr Wineman, who also chairs the JLC's membership council, said that he had not called for Mr Arkush's resignation. "He is a valued colleague. We hope we can put this all behind us," he said.

Mr Arkush, who is still planning to stand again as vice-president in May, has been removed from a liaison committee set up last year to improve relations between the Board and JLC. He was also due to represent the Board at the Aipac conference in Washington next week, but will instead attend a Board executive meeting.

But Board treasurer Laurence Brass and joint vice-president Jerry Lewis said that Mr Arkush should "consider taking a break from communal politics".

Mr Lewis added that there had been "a real risk" that supporters of the JLC would have reviewed their willingness to continue contributing to joint projects with the Board.

The third vice-president, Paul Edlin, said that while some of Mr Arkush's comments on the JLC were "not inaccurate", remarks that could have implied financial impropriety were unacceptable and "call for [his] resignation".

Reaction from ordinary deputies was mixed. Anthony Spencer, of Shenley Synagogue, suggested that the apology had resulted from "communal bullying" of Mr Arkush. "He is an excellent deputy and for him to be humiliated in this way should not have happened. Many members of the Board are upset by the JLC which seems to be interfering and taking over the functions of the Board."

But Roger Winfield, of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood, said: "The community needs leaders with sound judgment. We have to question whether he [Mr Arkush] possesses enough of that to remain a senior member of the Board."

Former vice-president Flo Kaufmann, from Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, commented: "I am surprised that a senior vice-president could have had the lack of judgment to have put himself in a position where he had to write a letter of apology."

But Mr Davis's reaction has also elicited criticism, with former Board treasurer Jeffrey Pinnick saying it "demolishes any leadership credibility the JLC has".

Last updated: 3:25pm, March 1 2012