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New team at Board of Deputies face fresh challenges

    "It's an upset," one old-timer declared after Sunday's election results. Not that Laura Marks was elected, but that she had captured the top vice-presidential slot barely four months after becoming a deputy. Her election clearly signals a widespread desire for a breath of fresh air.

    She benefited both from concerted Progressive canvassing, and from the Board's own campaign to encourage more female and younger deputies. Had neither of the two women candidates for vice-president been elected, the organisation would have faced a PR disaster.

    But her main asset was her proven cross-communal credentials as the founder of Mitzvah Day, an innovation which has not only unified different sections of the Jewish community but also reached out to other faiths. She would seem an ideal choice to raise the profile of an important, but often understated, part of the Board's work - building interfaith alliances.

    The prevailing mood on the floor of the Board was that it now has its strongest vice-presidential team in years. In Alex Brummer, it has one of the country's top journalists who will bring sound judgment and high-level contacts. Jonathan Arkush has been an energetic chairman of the defence division, carrying the fight to anti-Zionists.

    The new team will have to find a way to strengthen liaison with the Jewish Leadership Council and prevent the outbreak of the turf wars that have flared up periodically over the past few years.

    But the real test is likely to come from external events - the fallout from any military attack on Iran, a Mid-East peace process sinking into the quicksand, or political unrest on the heels of economic deprivation in Europe.

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