Last week’s revelation that an internal Jewish Leadership Council audit had alleged financial irregularities by Jeremy Newmark has, understandably, shaken many in the community. But while Mr Newmark’s alleged behaviour is one thing, the cover-up by the then JLC trustees has been, if anything, still more damaging.
Their motives might have been well intentioned but, by sweeping the allegations under the carpet, the JLC not only denied its own member organisations knowledge to which they were entitled; it also ensured that an affair that might have been limited and contained if it had been dealt with when it happened has had an explosive impact five years later.
Ideally, the current JLC would have launched an independent inquiry into both Mr Newmark’s alleged behaviour and the JLC’s handling of it, perhaps conducted by a QC from outside the community. Failing that, its decision to hire a charity law expert and a firm of accountants to conduct a review is welcome.
But there is one major caveat. To date, the JLC has refused to give an unambiguous guarantee that their findings will be made public. This is vital. Only if the full findings are published can there be confidence that those findings are robust, and that there has not been any further misguided, however well-intentioned, attempt to limit the damage by keeping some information private.
The leadership of the JLC, both lay and professional, is composed of good people who have devoted extraordinary amounts of time and, in some cases, money to serving the community. It would be in no one’s interest if they were subsumed in a scandal not of their making. But, to avoid that, there must be full transparency.
As the great Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously put it, sunlight is the best disinfectant.