Shortly after Jeremy Newmark arrived at the Jewish Leadership Council in early 2006, it adopted a new executive structure. It was, he explained, one “which blends openness, accountability and best practice in corporate governance with a flexibility to operate in the modern world”.
Whatever else might be said of the JLC’s handling of his departure, “openness” is not a word that comes to mind.
Many will accept the trustees’ reasoning that they acted out of compassion, dealing discreetly with a delicate situation while enabling a chief executive with health problems to go without injury to his reputation.
What they have not revealed is whether they simply put down any lapses in financial management down to ill-health or if they felt his conduct ought to preclude him from taking on certain roles in the future.
Some of the constituents of Finchley and Golders Green, for example, might have wished for the opportunity last summer to question their would-be MP about his approach towards expenses.
The JLC has also not disclosed whether its trustees accepted the observations of the internal report in 2013 that it “appears to be standard practice in the JLC to falsify information relating to finances” or that its member organisations were sometimes overcharged.
Since its inception 15 years ago, the JLC has struggled to shake off perceptions of being a closed circle of the elite. This week’s revelation will hardly help.
But it doesn’t really affect the larger question over the JLC. There was already a strong case for the council to find a way to unite with the Board of Deputies under a single umbrella, particularly since the JLC’s new chairman Jonathan Goldstein has emphasised the need to cut communal duplication. Only last week the Board’s president, Jonathan Arkush, revealed that talks about this had resumed.
Meanwhile, since one of the JLC’s programmes is leadership training, it might ask some of its trainee leaders, as a case study, to review the events of five years ago — and suggest whether it might have done anything differently.