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Board of Deputies President is given an ‘unfair advantage’, say opponents

Two Deputies allege that the incumbent is being provided with a public platform

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The Board of Deputies has been hit by complaints that current President Marie van der Zyl is enjoying an unfair advantage over her challenger in the upcoming leadership election.

Two Deputies allege that the incumbent is being provided with a public platform that has not been offered to her rival, Jonathan Neumann.

The Board’s own rules state that once an election campaign has begun, communications should be “broadly balanced” between candidates and “political and media opportunities are assigned on the basis of officers’ portfolios”. The complaint came after Ms van der Zyl gave a speech to mark the launch of the Commission on Racial Inclusivity report, which was live-streamed on Sunday night. She has also continued to issue social media statements as Board President.

Simon Gordon, Deputy at Kol Nefesh Masorti Synagogue, said he was concerned that “some candidates appear to have opportunities that are not open to others”.

Robert Festenstein, Deputy at the Prestwich Hebrew Congregation, added that “serious questions” must be answered about the President’s Sunday night broadcast and ongoing public statements.

However, the Board insisted that the “integrity of the election” is the “highest priority” and that current rules allow for the President to continue her work during the campaign.

A Board spokesman said current election policy allowed for Ms van der Zyl to continue to make public statements as part of her role – including the speech to mark the launch of the Racial Inclusivity report, which had been postponed following the death of Prince Philip.

The spokesman added: “Maintaining the integrity of its elections is the Board of Deputies’ highest priority. The Board will continue to act consistently in upholding our elections policy. The policy provides that ‘office holders will continue to do their work and fulfil their roles until any transfer of office’.”

The triennial election does not normally result in a run-off, as the incumbent has previously gone unchallenged or has stood down at the end of their term.

The last challenge was in 1964. Ms van der Zyl now faces a run off against Mr Neumann, a charity lawyer who has represented Shomrei Hadath Synagogue on the Board for seven years.

The campaign began with nominations last Friday. The presidential hustings will be held next Tuesday and the poll opens on 9 May.

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