JC Power 100 2014

Revealed: the community’s power elite


1: Mick Davis: New boss in town

When Mick Davis became chairman of the trustees of the Jewish Leadership Council in July 2009, it may not have been exactly a palace coup but it showed who was boss in town.

The council had till then been led by the elected president of the Board of Deputies, Henry Grunwald, but while his successor Vivian Wineman became chairman of the JLC's "council of membership", it was Mick Davis who grasped the reins of its executive.

The burly South African émigré, who is 56, emerged into the spotlight in 2006 as chairman of the UJIA, which remains one of British Jewry's most powerful organisations, if not quite as dominant as yesteryear. During his tenure, he helped to stage the central London parade for Israel's 65th birthday in 2008, one of the most successful communal organisations in recent memory, and the We Believe In Israel advocacy conference in 2011.

He had proved his prowess in business, building up the mining company Xstrata into a FTSE 100 company until his departure last year after its merger with commodities giant Glencore. But Mick the Miner, as he is known in the business press, is not at a loose end; his new X2 venture was reported to be exploring a new multi-billion coalmining venture recently. His pockets are deep - he and his wife Barbara's names are almost everywhere on the donor lists of Jewish charities. He is also involved with Kew Gardens and the Royal Opera House and gave £500,000 to the Conservative Party last year.

JLC colleagues say he "leads from the front". But he took many by surprise four years ago when he stuck his neck out and broke a taboo long observed by senior community lay leaders by publicly criticising the Israeli government. His warning that, without a two-state solution, the country risked becoming an apartheid state triggered an explosive debate.

But his critics failed to recognise that as the UJIA was the prime sponsor of Zionist youth movements, he understood the new and more complex attitude to Israel apparent among many of the younger generation.

While his backing for the anti-boycott campaign and his unqualified support for Israel in its recent conflict with Hamas are clear, he has nonetheless been unafraid to court further controversy, complaining this year in an opinion piece in Ha'aretz that diaspora activists were battling with "one hand tied behind their back" because of Israel's posture on the peace process.

Mick the Miner had at one time looked like Mick the Diner but a few years ago he dramatically shed the pounds and a new slimline Mick strode on to the stage. "Many people in business, their businesses get smaller and they get bigger. He has managed to do things the other way round," David Cameron quipped in 2012. Last year the PM appointed him as chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Commission to consider its future remembrance in Britain, a position which reflected his unrivalled access and influence.

The challenges faced by British Jews because of events in the Middle East hardly need stating. But the JLC leader also has internal matters to attend to. Amid a growing feeling that there are too many Jewish organisations and too little money to pay for them, can he persuade the voluntary sector to follow his example and trim itself too?

And will the JLC and the Board show the way by pulling off a merger - a move which could mean Mr Davis having to give up some of his executive power for the sake of democracy?

2: Trevor Pears

Along with his two brothers, Mark and David, Trevor inherited a multi-billion pound property empire which started life as a modest three shop greengrocer business in North London founded by his father and grandfather.

Since the Pears Foundation was set up in 1992, he has been the first person within the community to use his philanthropy strategically, backing some of the most interesting charitable initiatives. These include the JHub centre in West Hampstead which supports new Jewish social action projects, and the UK Taskforce which aims to advance the economic welfare of Israel's Arab citizens. He has also invested substantially in Holocaust education.

A reserved figure, his foundation partners with a vast array of Jewish organisations both at home and abroad, from the JW3 centre in London to the Tzedek and Entwine volunteer programmes overseas.

The foundation is also a major player in Israel education in the UK. It promotes Israel studies as a discipline and supports academic posts at various campuses.

He commissioned a report this year which called for more schools to teach Israel studies GCSE. It also recommended that communal rallies reflect a "range of attitudes to Israel".

3: Lord Sacks

The awards have been rolling in from across the Jewish world for the Emeritus Chief Rabbi since his retirement a year ago - a testimony to his status as the leading modern Orthodox rabbi of his generation. Constantly in demand as a teacher and speaker abroad, he has been free to spend more time in the lecture hall, having picked up academic chairs in the USA as well as here in the UK.

In his final years as chief, he successfully avoided the political banana skins that had once threatened to bring his tenure to a premature end. The Charedim recognised that there was no better spokesman for Orthodoxy, while the Progressives had no problem with his elegant exposition of Jewish teachings on social responsibility.

In retirement he has retained his authority as the most powerful religious voice in this country, bar none. He speaks with huge dignity on behalf of all those of faith and Rabbi Mirvis has yet to establish anything like his broadcast presence or natural leadership. Even in absentia he has set an almost impossible standard for his successor to follow.

4: Dame Vivien Duffield

The no-nonsense Dame known for her steely exterior and straight-shooting approach is considered one of the most generous philanthropists in the whole of the UK, let alone the Jewish community.

The daughter of wealthy businessman Sir Charles Clore, from an early age she says she felt at home in all-male environments - from shooting parties at her father's country home when she was just 13 to company boardrooms later on in life.

For Dame Vivien, charity is an integral part of her Jewish identity, - she chastised those who don't give with her famous put-down: "Shrouds don't have pockets".

She has generously supported the Clore Shalom primary schools but perhaps her most notable legacy will be the impressive JW3 complex in London's Finchley Road, which she funded from the planning stage to completion last year to the tune of around £40 million.

Modelled on the Jewish Cultural Centre in Manhattan, it is designed to serve as a major hub bringing together the community's disparate sections under one roof.

Another of her oft-cited remarks sums up her role as a philanthropist. "I'm the maniac who signs the big cheques," she says.

5: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Since his installation a year ago, Chief Rabbi Mirvis has been getting to know his flock, keeping up a busy schedule of visits to synagogues, schools and other community groups. Spreading good cheer like a "kosher Father Christmas" (according to one observer) he has largely made a warm impression and is evidently more comfortable on the schmoozing rounds than his predecessor.

He was applauded for his first big decision, to go where Lord Sacks feared to tread - the Limmud education conference - despite the reservations of his own Beth Din. It bore out his pledge to work cross-communally.

He pushed through a further advance for women, enabling them to become trustees of the United Synagogue, while his Israel mission for rabbis showed open-mindedness, introducing them to a range of opinion, including meeting Palestinians.

But it is still early days and he has yet to put his stamp on the job. Next month's Shabbat UK celebration will be his first major project. How he implements his priorities of education and tikkun olam remains to be revealed.

6: Baroness Neuberger

Britain's second female rabbi, Baroness Neuberger was the first to have her own congregation.

She remains the best known female rabbi in the country and - along with Lord Sacks - the most popular Jewish voice among broadcasters and print journalists.

She has been a role model not only for Jewish women to the point where over half of all non-Orthodox rabbis are now female, but also for women clergy across the faiths.

As such, she has paved the way for the Board of Deputies senior vice president Laura Marks and Reform Judaism's senior rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, and while in time they may overtake her, 40 years of profile-building ensures it has not happened yet.

Baroness Neuberger also writes extensively about Jewish identity and ethics providing a unique moral voice in British Jewry.

As a north London girl, she attended South Hampstead High School and went on to Newnham College, Cambridge, getting her rabbinic diploma at Leo Baeck College where she taught from 1977 to 1997.

A former president of Liberal Judaism, she currently occupies the post of senior rabbi of the West London Synagogue, the oldest Reform synagogue in the country.

7: Simon Morris

At the helm of Jewish Care for the last 10 years, Morris has consolidated his reputation as the leader of one of the community's largest organisations employing 805 staff with a turnover of more than £45 million.

He began his career in welfare as a social worker but soon realised it wasn't for him, describing it as "putting sticking plasters on people".

Instead he decided that he wanted to take on a more strategic role. As chief executive he has overseen the construction of Jewish Care's £40 million flagship campus building in Golders Green which includes 54 care beds and 45 independent living apartments.

He describes the complex as "the most exciting care development not only in Anglo-Jewry but in the whole of Europe".

Under his guidance Jewish Care continues to be one of the community's premier fundraisers, achieving a record breaking £4.4 million at its annual dinner this June.

At the same time, a JC survey into the salaries of Jewish charity bosses found that he takes home a maximum of £150,000, representing only 0.33 per cent of his organisation's total turnover.

Last year, he launched a major dementia awareness campaign aiming to improve the community's knowledge and understanding about the condition.

For Morris, Jewish Care's vision can be distilled into just a few words: "I want us to be the best at what we do".

8: Ed Miliband

A year from now, Ed Miliband could either top this list or disappear from it altogether.

The Labour leader could be just eight months away from being Britain's first Jewish-born Prime Minister since Disraeli.

Miliband's relationship with both his religion and the community has been somewhat tortuous - after years of extending his understanding of Anglo-Jewry, his positioning on the Gaza conflict this summer has threatened to alienate him and his party from British Jews for years to come.

Many supporters who had earlier in the year kvelled as he declared his new-found closeness to British Jews were apoplectic after he attacked David Cameron at the height of the Middle East violence.

Miliband made a successful trip to Israel ahead of Pesach this year, meeting leading politicians and touring Yad Vashem.

He also proved a popular speaker at high-profile Community Security Trust and Labour Friends of Israel events.

But in July he described Israel's Operation Protective Edge "wrong and unjustifiable" and was accused of using the tragedy for political point-scoring.

However, his working relationship with others on this list, such as Liverpool MP Luciana Berger and Lord Mendelsohn, and his friendships with leading figures like Lord Kestenbaum, means that Jewish influences will nonetheless play their part if the voters do put him in Number 10 next May.

9: Laura Marks

Laura Marks has long been the poster girl for women looking to take on senior communal roles.

She was voted in as senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies in 2012, which was remarkable since she became a deputy only a few months before.

She is said to be a contender for the presidency when the election is held next year.

But Marks owes her position on this list to her work with Mitzvah Day, a communal social action initiative that, over the past decade, has engaged 20,000 people every year in the UK alone and reaches across the community - from the Orthodox to the secular.

It has made her a role model for many women within the community, a position that has been reinforced by her Women in Leadership campaign for the Jewish Leadership Council, a project encouraging women to make a larger contribution in running the community.

She has been a pioneer of inter-faith groups, particularly pushing for Muslim and Jewish women to find common ground.

She had long-been supported on this by Lady Warsi.

After the Baroness' resignation from government in the midst of the war in Gaza, Marks tweeted "our interfaith relationships remain more important than ever in these difficult times".

She has three children with her husband, TV producer Dan Patterson.

10: The Limmud Volunteers

The power 100 judges thought hard about including a single representative from Limmud, such its chair Kevin Sefton or chief executive Shelley Marsh.

But the panel came to the conclusion that to select one individual would be to misunderstand and misrepresent the whole nature of the movement.

Limmud is a grassroots educational organisation which works from the bottom up, not the top down. Indeed, its influence can be seen in the numerous pop-up campaigns now appearing across the community in response to the conflict in Gaza.

It is the volunteers who make it work who must take the credit for transforming the whole culture of Jewish communal politics and organisation.

Limmud's annual winter conference and its summer sister event could not take place without their hard work and commitment.

At last year's five-day conference at Warwick University 350 volunteers looked after the 2,600 attendees, doing everything from menial kitchen tasks to escorting the chief rabbi around the campus.

And one must not forget the core team of 40 volunteers who spent a large portion of the 12 months before the conference organising its programme of 1,000 events and provision of 30,000 kosher meals.

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