Board man urges ‘one conversion standard’

By Leon Symons, July 23, 2009

The senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies has called for a common standard of conversion to prevent a repeat of the JFS situation.

Jonathan Arkush, a modern Orthodox Jew who is a member of Borehamwood Synagogue, put forward the suggestion during a debate at Sunday’s Board plenary meeting in central London — and he won immediate support from president Vivian Wineman.

Mr Arkush, a barrister, was elected to the post in the May poll, the first time he has been one of the honorary officers.

He told deputies: “I have long been of the personal view that we are desperately in need, across the Jewish world, of a common standard of conversion to which all our denominations can sign up.

“I am not being naïve and I don’t underestimate the difficulties. They have gone a long way down the road in Israel and I would like to do whatever I can to move down that road so that Jews can be brought together and we have more Jews, not less, acting to the dictates of their conscience.”

Earlier he told deputies that as a governor of a primary school, children were not selected on ethnic but religious grounds “and that is why I believe the Court of Appeal erred”.

Board president Vivian Wineman applauded the suggestion. He said: “I think it is an excellent idea and I would support it. I only wish that we could persuade the religious authorities to come to some agreement. In Israel they had the huge challenge of people from the Soviet Union, around 30 per cent of whom were not Jewish.”

Last updated: 5:23pm, July 23 2009