Marie van der Zyl re-elected as president of the Board of Deputies

Incumbent beat challenger Jonathan Neumann by 161 votes to 125


In one of the most closely scrutinised elections for the Board of Deputies for many years, the sitting president, Marie van der Zyl, beat challenger Jonathan Neumann, by 161 votes to 125.

Mr Neumann, a charity lawyer, has been a deputy for Shomrei Hadath Synagogue for seven years and said repeatedly that he was standing against Ms van der Zyl as a way of “forcing accountability by giving deputies a real electoral choice”. 

There had not been a challenge to an incumbent president standing for a second term since 1964, and Board insiders were initially taken by surprise at Mr Neumann’s decision to run. 

But there was a real sense of a proper electoral race, rather than allowing someone to retain a post “on the nod”. Ms van der Zyl was frequently obliged to defend unpopular positions during several sets of hustings, and deputies used the opportunity to complain about Board statements on controversial issues not being discussed by the full plenary of representatives.

Speaking after the results were announced, Ms van der Zyl thanked everyone connected with her successful campaign and the outgoing honorary officers, Sheila Gewolb, Edwin Shuker and Stuart Macdonald. 

Addressing deputies, she said: “I do not take your support for granted: after all, you had the democratic choice. As I said during the hustings, I have listened very carefully to what you had to say, and we will work on improving plenaries and increasing deputy involvement”. She promised to be “a president for all deputies,” and said she would look to “restore collegiality which at times has been missing over the last few months”.

Five candidates vied for three places as vice-president of the Board, as vice-presidents Edwin Shuker and Sheila Gewolb stood down. The successful contenders, elected through the single transferable vote system, were Gary Mond with 86 votes, David Mendoza-Wolfson with 74 votes, and Amanda Bowman, who served as VP in the last triennium, with 77 in the second round. 

Richard Cohen and former treasurer Stuart Macdonald failed to make the grade — Mr Cohen received nine votes in the first round ballot, while Mr Macdonald received 48 votes.  Since Mr Mond received the highest number of votes in the first round, he will become senior vice-president. Two hundred and ninety-eight deputies took part in the keenly watched election.

Deputy Ben Crowne, who represents Limmud at the Board, has been elected unopposed as the new treasurer.

Jonathan Neumann said: "While there's disappointment that we fell short, I am delighted to have received more votes than any unsuccessful Presidential candidate in the Board's history, and the narrowness of the margin shows there is a strong appetite for change. I am proud of the positive, issues-based campaign we fought, and for the support we received beyond the Board from swathes of ordinary Jews who do not feel represented by their leadership. The Board has many challenges ahead, and I wish the new team of Honorary Officers hatzlacha rabbah in meeting them."


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