Ever since I became editor of the JC, one story has been repeatedly mentioned to me. “You have to expose Jeremy Newmark”, I have been told. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least ten times a year someone has asked me when we are going to expose his activities as CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council.
The answer has always been the same: all I know are rumours. They have tended to be same rumours — of a car leased by the JLC but treated as his own, of family holidays effectively paid for by the JLC, and of his behaviour covered up by the JLC to avoid a scandal. But a rumour doesn’t become a fact just because it is widely repeated. Newspapers do not publish rumours. We publish evidence.
And so I would tell whoever was asking me to expose him: “Give me the evidence.”
Until this week, that has only happened once. Last year, by a fluke, a friend of mine got into a taxi in Israel. The driver asked if she was British. When she told him she was, he asked if she knew Jeremy Newmark.
He then told a story about Mr Newmark’s failure to settle a chauffering bill from 2013 and 2014, and of being hired to drive him on JLC business but instead ferrying his family around. Crucially, the driver had evidence — a handwritten note from Mr Newmark confirming the money owed. We ran the story, in part hoping it would encourage others who had evidence of other examples of his behaviour to come forward. None did.
Now, finally, someone has had enough and supplied us with the damning audit of his time at the JLC.
But in a way Mr Newmark is the least interesting aspect of this sordid story. There are, after all, bad apples everywhere. The long term damage of this story, surely, is in the cover-up.
The response of many of the most august names in our community to clear evidence of sustained irregularity by one of its most recognisable faces was not to call in the police and let the law take its course but to cover it up.
The supposed rationale — that the JLC wanted to show compassion to a man with diabetes and to his family — is simply risible.
Imagine, for example, if the board of the JC found out that I had leased a £46,000 BMW and put my personal number plate on it, had taken my family with me on work trips and had repeatedly, over many years, taken cash out from an ATM using a JC corporate bank account and not supplied receipts for the spending of that cash. As it happens, I have cancer. But so what? And what relevance would any upset be to my wife and family? The only appropriate response would be to sack me and call the police.
Instead, the trustees of the JLC took it upon themselves to bury all the evidence, going out of their way to keep it secret and ensure that the community was not allowed to know the truth about one of its most prominent figures.
Every one of those involved in this affair should be ashamed. Instead of ensuring that a man like Mr Newmark faced the consequences of his behaviour and the community was thereby protected in future, the JLC decided to reward him. He was allowed to leave with his dignity intact and his bank account still more flush, being handed the equivalent of six months’ worth of extra salary.
As Mr Newmark rebuilt himself as a Labour Party figure, using his undoubted skills to revive the Jewish Labour Movement, those same people who knew his true measure sat back mutely and watched, saying nothing. Worse, some of them gave the JLM generous donations, while knowing the details of his behaviour.
As a result of this community-wide cover-up, Mr Newmark came within 1,657 votes of becoming an MP last June.
One should note that today’s JLC is a very different body to the organisation that covered up Mr Newmark’s behaviour, with a different chair and a different CEO and a well-earned reputation for transparency.
Doubtless the JC will be attacked for publishing a story which will harm the community by exposing such appalling behaviour both by Mr Newmark and the JLC. We do not take such a decision lightly. But it is a core purpose of the press to hold power to account and in the end it is simply our duty to bring such wrongdoing to readers’ attention.
Related: Read all our coverage of the story