Race report urges over 100 changes to Jewish life

The Board of Deputies was spurred on by the murder of George Floyd to commission the controversial report


May0054778. Daily Telegraph. Stephen Bush byline pic for DT Comment. Picture shows Stephen Bush byline pic. Picture date 06/05/2014

An exhaustive report on racial inclusivity, commissioned by the Board of Deputies, has produced a controversial list of 119 changes to be made across 17 areas of the community, triggering both praise and criticism.

The recommendations cover almost all aspects of Jewish public life, from synagogues, schools and security to membership of the rabbinate, conversion and the representation of minorities in Jewish media.

Dates of significance to minorities, such as the Ethiopian Jewish festival of Sigd, should be marked in Jewish schools and the wider community, the report suggests.

Schools are also told to ensure that their secular curriculum covers black history, enslavement and the legacy of colonialism.

The New Statesman’s political editor, Stephen Bush, the commission chair who authored the report, told the JC that “profound changes” lie ahead for Anglo-Jewry if the report’s major recommendations are adopted.

The report was commissioned by the Board of Deputies in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020, and the launch of the global Black Lives Matter campaign. It was published in the week that ex-police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering Mr Floyd.

Initially, the Board sought ways of speaking to black Jews and Jews of colour but the commission’s remit was extended to include testimony from Sephardi, Yemenite and Mizrachi Jews, who ended up forming the majority of the witnesses.

Many who gave testimony said they felt marginalised and discriminated against, while a number complained of “Ashkenormativity” — the assumption that the Jewish community is entirely of Ashkenazi Jewish background.

Writing in the JC, Misha Mansoor, a journalist and shul-goer of Yemenite extraction, said that the report is overly preoccupied with identity politics and asked “how that helps us be less divided”.

She writes: “After reading Stephen Bush’s report… you could be forgiven for thinking that every Ashkenazi, or white, British Jew was a rabid racist belittling and despising fellow Jews who are not Ashkenazi or white.”

The report has been largely received without complaint by leaders of communal bodies, including the heads of the different denominations of Judaism in Britain.

In a statement echoed by other religious and lay leaders, the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said:

“The exclusion of even a single person because of the colour of their skin is a collective failure, for which we must all take responsibility.”

The public launch for the report is due to be hosted online by JW3 at 8pm on Sunday.

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