Former president of the Board of Deputies renews call for merger with the Jewish Leadership Council

Jonathan Arkush, whose 2018 plan for the JLC and Board to unify was made public this week, says he still supports the idea


The former president of the Board of Deputies has renewed his call for the Jewish Leadership Council to join forces with it in a single organisation.

Jonathan Arkush, who stepped down as president in May 2018, said this week he would like to see a “coming-together”.

A few months before he resigned, Mr Arkush drew up proposals for a unified structure in which the JLC would act as a “council of presidents” of Jewish organisations within the Board.

His plan was made public only on Wednesday when it was circulated to deputies by his successor, the Board’s current president Marie van der Zyl.

Mrs van der Zyl, who is a trustee of the JLC, told deputies the JLC had “not agreed” to reconsider Mr Arkush’s proposals.

But as part of its new strategy, the JLC has agreed to set up a “joint committee” with the Board to explore collaboration.

The JLC said its new strategy would “more clearly delineate the JLC’s mandate from that of the Board of Deputies”.

Speaking to the JC, Mr Arkush said that he felt “exactly the same way now as I did when I wrote the proposal back in January 2018”.

He had been encouraged to “put forward a proposal” by the chairman of the JLC Jonathan Goldstein, he said.

Mr Arkush said: “It continues to be that our community is too small to enjoy the luxury of having two public affairs organisations.

“The lesson of the last two years, when our community came together in an unprecedented way to address the surging antisemitism in the Labour party, is that we have to continue to act in a united way.”

Mr Arkush said he enjoyed a “very friendly and warm working relationship” with Mr Goldstein and “the community saw for itself the benefits of the Board and the JLC working closely in tandem.

“At the very least, that should continue but far preferable, at any rate to my mind, would be a coming-together.

“I hope, the Board having held out the offer, that the JLC will not kick it into the long grass or spurn it.”

A year ago JLC chief executive Simon Johnson said it had “always been in favour of discussions which could lead to taking the best of both the Board and the JLC and creating a unified communal structure.”

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