Field wide open in hunt for Deputies’ leader

The most hotly contested leadership election in the 250-year-old history of the Board of Deputies remains an open race with no front-runner yet emerging for president, after a straw poll by the JC.

When nominations closed last Friday, there were a record four candidates competing to be president of British Jewry’s main representative body for the next three years, with seven for the three vice-presidencies.

More than half of the 27 deputies polled — around 10 per cent of the 268 eligible to vote in Sunday’s week election — have yet to make up their mind.

Nine said they were undecided altogether on their vote for president, while another five said they had narrowed their choice down to two candidates.

Of the 13 who named a presidential first choice, five said they would opt for Board senior vice-president Vivian Wineman; three each for former Board VP Jerry Lewis and former United Synagogue president Peter Sheldon; and two for Board vice-president Flo Kaufmann.

But when one counts in second choices or those yet to choose between two candidates, then nine each put Mr Wineman and Mr Lewis in their top two; eight went for Mr Sheldon and seven for Mrs Kaufmann.

Second — and even third — preferences could prove crucial because the Deputies election is not a first past the post system.

If no candidate scores an overall majority on the first count, then second preferences start to be taken into account.

While one deputy said the four presidential hopefuls were “all very good candidates — it’s going to be difficult to choose”, another said “I’m not over the moon about any of them.” Another said: “There is no frontrunner, no Manchester United candidate.”

A number of deputies said that Sunday’s hustings in London, hosted by the JC, would be critical in influencing their decision.

The four presidents, all from United Synagogue constituencies, have already visited Manchester to speak to deputies, while the US was due to have held a hustings for them last night.

But there is widespread agreement that retiring president Henry Grunwald, who steps down after a maximum two successive three-year terms, is “a tough act to follow”.

Last updated: 11:29am, May 7 2009