This is the point of the Board of Deputies

The President and CEO of the organisation respond to queries about its relevance in 2024


Board of Deputies at the residence of the British Ambassador to Israel Simon Walters

March 15, 2024 10:48

There is a common saying: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”. With that in mind, we would like to respond to a recent article in the JC asking “what is the point of the Board of Deputies in 2024”.

It was written by Gary Mond, chairman of the advisory board of the National Jewish Assembly (NJA), ahead of the Board of Deputies elections. Less than three years ago, Mr Mond himself was elected Senior Vice President of the Board; had he remained Senior Vice President, he would undoubtedly have been a serious contender for the Presidency now. This would suggest, contrary to the suggestion he makes in his piece, that the Board of Deputies does indeed have space for those with “conservative views”.

What our organisation does not have space for, however, are people who express the view that “all civilisation” is “at war with Islam,” as Mr Mond did. Or who responded after Emanuel Macron beat the far-right Marine Le Pen in 2017 by liking a post from far-right activist Pamela Geller saying that France had picked “submission over freedom”. That would seem to go well beyond having, as Mr Mond suggests in his piece, “concerns about Islamist Jew hatred”.

It might be more pertinent to question the point of the NJA. By our count, Mr Mond has written eight columns since he left the Board two years ago, of which four have criticised the Board of Deputies, with titles such as “the Board of Deputies has lost its relevance”, “the Board of Deputies activism brings charities into disrepute”, and his latest

effort. Yet the activities of the NJA remain obscure to many.

Allow us to offer a snapshot of what the Board has been doing since the terrible day of October 7. We have held rallies in support of Israel that were attended by tens of thousands of people, hold twice-weekly vigils outside Westminster to ensure that Parliamentarians are not allowed to forget the hostages, and initiated an “Adopt-a-Hostage” scheme which has seen wide take up by Synagogues around the country.

Our regular work, in which we provide help and guidance to those who may be suffering antisemitic discrimination, has been strengthened by the development of guides for parents of children in non-Jewish schools who may have been targeted since October 7, as well as a guide for those in the workplace who have been subjected to bullying and harassment in the past few months.

We were responsible for the campaign which led the BBC to begin describing Hamas not as “militants”, but as an organisation proscribed as terrorists by the Government. We have held events for the community on the subject of combatting antisemitism in schools and universities, addressed by Senior Members of the Government.

We have worked directly with local communities with regards to disturbing motions put forward by local councils, ensuring that measures are put in place which respect debate but stand firm against antisemitic harassment. The President visited Leeds in the wake of antisemitic vandalism on the Hillel house and the campaign of harassment against the

university chaplain, meeting with the JSoc, university leaders and the chaplaincy couple themselves.

We have organised a solidarity mission to Israel to support those in dire need. Last week, the President of the Board of Deputies met directly with the UN Secretary General and told him exactly what the community’s view is of UNWRA. We have met and continue to meet senior members of the both the Government and the Official Opposition to make the Jewish community’s views on safety and security crystal clear, and to push for a stronger line to be taken on those who engage in antisemitic behaviour at pro-Palestinian protests.

At the same time, the Board has also been carrying on with the regular work it engages in – advocating in support of Jewish religious freedoms, combatting antisemitism – particularly in the online sphere, where our dedicated staff have managed to get some truly nasty accounts banned from various mainstream platforms – and ensuring that politicians at all levels of Government understand and engage with the key issues of

concern for our community. We could go on, but column space prevents us from doing so.

The Board of Deputies is not perfect. Show us an organisation that is. However, its representative nature is unlike any other cross-denominational organisation in our community – or indeed in any other, with more than 200 Synagogues and organisations around the country sending elected Deputies.

In the coming months, key candidates for office will be setting out their vision for taking the Board of Deputies forward, with hustings events open to the wider Jewish community arranged for London, Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow. It will be a celebration of the democracy which defines the Board of Deputies, and which we are deeply proud of. We welcome all those from our community who seek to move forward rather than looking back.

March 15, 2024 10:48

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