Dubliner rises to top of American Jewry

Gideon Taylor is joining the biggest Jewish welfare group in the world

Gideon Taylor is joining the biggest Jewish welfare group in the world

The grandson of a former Board of Deputies president has won one of the top jobs in the American Jewish community.

Gideon Taylor, 44, grandson of the late Lord Fisher, has been appointed associate executive vice-president — a new post and number two in the organisation — of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the biggest Jewish social welfare organisation in the world.

Mr Taylor will be leaving his current post as executive vice president of the Claims Conference in the summer to rejoin the organisation he left a decade ago. His first task will be to take himself and his family to work for the JDC in Israel for a year.

Dublin-born Mr Taylor, who is married with two daughters, said: “I will be working initially with long-range strategic planning, looking at where the organisation is going, what the issues and challenges the JDC will face in the coming years.

“Of all the times to have been at the Claims Conference, this was probably the busiest, with the big agreements on slave labour, the discussions with Swiss banks and negotiations with insurance companies. Ten years is a long stretch. There is always a time for new challenges and new ideas and I felt this was now.”

Mr Taylor’s family has figured large in British and Irish Jewish history. His grandfather, Sir Samuel — later Lord — Fisher, held numerous posts inside and outside the Jewish community, while his father, Mervyn, was the first — and so far the only — Jew to serve as a minister in the Irish Republic.

Mr Taylor is under no illusions about the scale of the task confronting the JDC.

“We are living in turbulent times for the Jewish world and Israel. There are the economic challenges, the security and political challenges and the atmosphere,” he said.

“The JDC is one of the great Jewish organisations. It is working in more than 70 countries and does remarkable things for the Jewish people.”

He saluted its close working relationship with Britain’s World Jewish Relief, noting that WJR had been “consistently there to meet the needs of some of the poorest Jews in the greatest danger”.

Of the issues facing Jewry as a whole, Mr Taylor said: “For some communities there are issues of physical safety, in other communities it is poverty, or elsewhere they may be in a hostile environment.

“It is important that the entire Jewish world is aware of what some communities are facing and what their needs are. That is why the JDC is so important. It’s about Jewish solidarity, the principle that every Jew is important and every Jew must care for other Jews in the community. That is a central principle of the Jewish faith.”

Claims Conference chairman Julius Berman paid tribute to Mr Taylor. He said: “He has been an outstanding executive, championing the needs of Holocaust survivors in negotiations, pursuing claims for restitution, and successfully managing a large-scale operation to ensure that assistance reaches survivors around the world.

“During the decade of Gideon’s professional leadership, the Claims Conference has achieved many great successes.

“That includes the establishment of the Slave Labour Programme, which distributed more than $1.5 billion (£1.06 billion); liberalisation and expansion of pension programmes to include tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors; and restitution of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    Last updated: 11:26am, April 2 2009