Pack and Zinkin: let the battle commence

As the two candidates vie for the United Synagogue presidency, Simon Rocker poses some questions


Why are you standing for the presidency?

Stephen Pack: To secure the future of the United Synagogue for the next generation. I have a deep passion for the US - it is a remarkable organisation, and has many excellent communities, but it now needs some new initiatives to ensure it continues to flourish.

Peter Zinkin: I believe in the power of the US to be a force for good in our community. I take enormous pleasure and pride in all that we do for our members and the community at large and want to build on the successes of recent years to ensure that the US's leadership position in the wider community is enhanced and better known to our members and recognised by the community. I want a higher level of engagement with our communities and members so that we reconfirm the priorities to which we are working.

I believe that I have the necessary skills and passion to lead the US community, its rabbis, dayanim, lay leaders, professionals and volunteers forward and to inspire increased engagement across the US community.

What communal and professional experience do you have that equips you for the role?

Zinkin: I have been a US vice-president for six years and prior to that was chairman of Golders Green Synagogue for six years. I have chaired the property committee for eight years, working with many synagogues on property projects, and represent the US on the Western Charitable Foundation and Jewish Memorial Council.

I believe that my professional life as planning and development director of Balfour Beatty for the past 20 years is entirely complementary to my work with the US. My responsibilities at Balfour Beatty have given me a wide experience of management in a very large organisation, much of which has been directly relevant to my work at the US, including on property, pensions, organisation and senior appointments, governance, finance and investment matters.

Pack: I have been a trustee of the US for nine years (three as vice-president) and have worked on almost all aspects of the organisation. I sit on a Jewish Leadership Council committee and the Chief Rabbinate Trust. This has given me a comprehensive knowledge of the US and its interaction with the wider community. I have been chairman and financial representative of Cockfosters Synagogue and built the Hadley Wood community. This has given me first-hand knowledge of building and running communities.

I have just retired as a partner from PricewaterhouseCoopers where I was responsible for a team of 180 professionals. This has given me proven skills in leadership and effecting change.

What would be your three priorities for the US as president?

Zinkin: Educational development - bringing Judaism into the home and building on the living, learning and caring initiative. Increasing membership - working with the younger groups to make the US relevant to them. Improving our engagement and relationships with the other major organisations of Anglo-Jewry.

Pack: Involve younger members with the running of the US - each trustee will have a young man and woman to assist them. Bring in new communities aimed specifically at young members; work with the treasurers to reduce the burden of central costs on shuls which are less able to pay.

4.What kind of religious ethos do you think the US should represent?

Pack: A traditional Jewish ethos based on authentic, inclusive and modern values. We welcome every Jew regardless of their level of religious practice or belief.

Zinkin: Centrist inclusive orthodoxy, a welcoming home for all those who value traditional Judaism whatever their level of observance.

Can you give two examples of initiatives you would like to take?

Zinkin: Internally - engaging with the member synagogues and council to review what we do and why we do it to make sure we have the right priorities.Externally - making sure the US is able to play its full part across Anglo Jewry by improving our engagement and relationships.

Pack: My manifesto has a 15-point action plan. In addition to the points noted above, I intend to give shuls additional autonomy and ensure we offer attractive benefits to younger members.

What qualities should the next Chief Rabbi have?

Zinkin: We need someone who can articulate our ethos, provide strong religious leadership in sympathy with the membership, while continuing to be a powerful voice for the Jewish community in the wider world.

Pack: There has been an extensive programme of consultation on the role and attributes of the next Chief Rabbi which will be used to help frame the job description. I would hope that the next Chief Rabbi will be a "rabbi of rabbis" for our community, focused on moving the US and the wider community he serves forward. I also hope he will build on the excellent work done by Lord Sacks.

How many Orthodox rabbis
serving in the US or elsewhere in the UK do you see as credible candidates for the next Chief Rabbi?

Zinkin: I believe we have a number of very talented rabbis in the US and in the wider Jewish community.

Pack: There are several credible candidates. I am committed to appointing the best possible candidate and do not have any pre-existing view on the front runner. It is also important that we cast the net as widely as possible.

How would you describe your
leadership style?

Pack: As "pull" rather than "push". I lead by creating consensus and inspiring teams. I am not a micro-manager but excel at focusing on what is important and getting it done. The president is a team leader, above all.

Zinkin: Committed, listening, determined and driven to achieve the chosen objective.

What advances would you like to see for women in the US during your period of office?

Zinkin: The US must meet the aspirations of our women members and engage with them to ensure that the myriad of exceptional talent among our women members is available for the benefit of the organisation and the community at large.

Pack: The next Chief Rabbi will take office in September 2013 and he will guide us on this. I would welcome women becoming US trustees and being appointed chairs of shuls.

How do you view the US's relations with other Anglo-Jewish bodies and what changes would you make, if any?

Zinkin: The US has to be confident of its ethos and what it stands for so that it can treat with any part of Anglo Jewry on the front foot. The US has become appropriately more assertive in recent years but now it needs to ensure that it is comfortable with its place in Anglo Jewry and as important that Anglo Jewry is comfortable with it.

Pack: We need closer relationships with other communities that recognise the authority of the Chief Rabbi and I will be encouraging mergers with them wherever possible. We also need closer co-operation with other bodies like the Federation and the Spanish and Portuguese, and I am already having some promising discussions on areas where we can co-operate. We have much more in common than separates us.

It is vital to have close relationships with other Jewish religious organisations, both on the right and the left, and we should co-operate with them from a position of mutual respect.

I will also improve communication and our relationships with the Board of Deputies, the JLC, the UJIA, Jewish Care, the CST and other key organisations - and indeed with the Jewish press!

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