‘Huge row’ in Scotland as SCoJeC leaders are voted out at angry AGM

Acrimony and recriminations following split over future direction of Scottish Council of Jewish Communities


The chair and vice-chair of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) have been voted out amid an acrimonious split over its future direction.

Alan Kay and Mark Taylor are to be replaced by Nicola Livingston and Gillian Raab following the decision at Sunday’s AGM.

The JC was told that the motion to vote on the top positions was submitted just two days beforehand.

Sources described the atmosphere at the online meeting as “unpleasant”, saying the vote had triggered “a huge row”.

It is understood that the divide relates to the plan to replace Ephraim Borowski, who has served as the organisation’s director in a voluntary capacity for 22 years.

In April, it was announced that following an agreement with the Board of Deputies, SCoJeC would appoint its first paid chief executive to professionalise representation for Scottish Jewry.

It was said at the time that Mr Borowski would stand down in advance of the AGM. He is still in the role.

One of those at the meeting suggested afterwards that Mr Borowski “didn’t like the way the process was going or the way Mr Kay was working towards it”.

Glasgow Jewish Representative Council president Paul Edlin said the vote had been conducted “democratically” but had caused “great upset”, given the lack of notice.

In a statement to the JC, Mr Kay said he had taken office with a “mandate to modernise and professionalise SCoJeC”. For all its successes, “governance and policy-making are opaque” and it was “overly dependent on a volunteer director”.

He had worked to bring about changes, with the council voting for them.

“However, just as we were about to invite candidates for interview for a new chief executive post, the organisation has been thrown into disarray by the people who have spent the last few months trying to thwart and delay these changes.”

Mr Kay claimed that “this irresponsible and divisive action has spooked some of the donors I had cultivated [and] may well deter candidates for the post.

“Some of the constituent communities are now talking about withdrawing, setting SCoJeC’s representative mandate in crisis.

“I know that change is difficult, requiring hard work and commitment. But it is less problematic than allowing this precious institution to continue to stagnate and decay, just when Scottish Jews need it most. I will continue to urge SCoJeC’s council to make the necessary changes to make the organisation fit to serve our community.”

Mr Taylor has also spoken out, warning that “if the organisation does not see sense, I fear for its future.

“Under Alan’s leadership, we developed an ambitious plan to reform the organisation; to radically improve its governance so that it could better serve the needs of the Scottish Jewish community in these difficult times.”

That progress was now “in serious jeopardy and as such I have resigned from the council. If the organisation does not see sense, I fear for its future.”

Mr Borowski said the council had taken “a democratic vote in line with our constitution. For a representative body to be representative, we have a duty to listen to and work with the people we represent.

“The council has done that and elected new office-bearers.

“Now we have to come together in a transparent and collaborative manner to represent, connect and support Jewish people in Scotland and work to advance the best interests of the entire community.” He declined to comment further.

Meanwhile, Mrs Livingston said she was “honoured to have been nominated and elected as the new chair”.

She would “focus on unity” and was looking forward “to working with SCoJeC’s executive and council to build on the excellent work that’s been done over recent years, in particular with regard to plans to appoint a paid CEO”.

She was also keen to collaborate with Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council “to further develop and protect the interests of Scottish Jewry”.

A Board of Deputies spokesperson said the Board “remains committed to supporting the Scottish Jewish community and we will be holding consultations with the relevant parties over the coming days and weeks to work out how best we can do so”.

Under the agreement reached in April, the plan was for the Board to contribute up to half the salary costs for a SCoJeC chief executive and further support Scottish Jewry with wider staff resources from its own team. The application period for the chief executive post has closed.

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