Board of Deputies woos under 35s


More must be done to encourage younger members of the community to join the Board of Deputies, according to the 250-year-old organisation's own executive officers.

President Vivian Wineman, senior vice-president Jonathan Arkush, and chief executive Jon Benjamin have acknowledged that greater efforts must be made to recognise the talents and contribution of younger Jews.

The trio met around a dozen under-35s, representing synagogues, communities, youth movements and students, last week.

Mr Wineman has previously admitted that there is a "significant risk" that a generation of potential leaders could be lost if action is not taken before the Board's next elections in May 2012.

Last Wednesday's session addressed issues including the atmosphere and handling of plenary meetings, the tensions caused by the Board's democratic structures, and the possibility of holding open communal meetings and policy forum groups.

There were frank admissions of the Board's failings from Mr Arkush. He criticised some older deputies whose "contributions are below par and leave others underwhelmed".

Later, he said: "What I pointed out was that the standard of debate often leaves something to be desired. There are some fantastic deputies, but the age profile of the Board needs to be brought down.

"We need more younger deputies, which by definition means fewer older deputies. But this needs to happen by persuasion, not compulsion. Constituencies have to see the benefits for themselves."

The under-35s aired their frustrations with the Board's current set-up, but were largely impressed with the response from the trio.

Joshua Marks, FZY national director, said: "I was left with the distinct impression that the meeting was as much a plea from the Board's executive for young leaders to reform the organisation as it was a call from young people for the organisation to reform itself."

Danny Stone, under-35s representative on the Board's executive, said: "There is a strong desire among the under-35s for radical change at the Board, vocalised at the meeting. The honorary officers were put on notice; we can't be written off and we will demand quicker, better reforms. I hope they got the point."

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