The United Synagogue is setting up a caucus to strengthen its voice at the Board of Deputies in response to what is seen as growing non-Orthodox influence there.
US president Stephen Pack said that its new Board of Deputies Action Group had been set up at the request of US deputies, although he acknowledged opposition from within the US to the move.
Speaking at Monday’s US council meeting, Mr Pack explained that although US members formed a majority of the Board and provided most of its funding, “quite often we don’t often punch our weight as an organisation”.
Other groups had adopted “a much more co-ordinated approach… to the voting on particular issues and indeed to the appointment of various honorary officers and have ended up moving themselves into a position which some people will regard as being against the interests of the United Synagogue”.
Mr Pack said the action group was not an attempt to tell individual deputies representing US constituencies how they should vote. But he believed that if US representatives knew “the co-ordinated view” of their synagogue and the US collectively, they would “take that into account in their vote”.
Maurice Minsky — who represents Belmont Synagogue on the Board and is a supporter of the new group — argued that non-Orthodox influence at the Board needed “to be contained. We feel the United Synagogue deputies should have a stronger voice.”
But Highgate Synagogue’s Adrian Cohen stressed that the new group should have a “positive agenda”. It was “not about knocking other communities”. Its role was to improve US representation at the Board and encourage greater participation of its members in debates.
He did not want the initiative “to be seen in some way as a sectarian one”.
But Anne Godfrey, a St John’s Wood Synagogue representative at the Board, decried the formation of the action group.
“At a time when we have the Chief Rabbi talking about reaching out to other communities, I think it would be very unfortunate if the US was seen as trying to create a caucus within the Board of Deputies,” she said.