Sheila Gewolb and Marie Van der Zyl running for Board of Deputies president

Two of the Board's current Vice Presidents have declared their candidacy so far


Marie van der Zyl has launched her bid to become of president of the Board of Deputies, following Sheila Gewolb’s declaration for the position last week.

Mrs van der Zyl, one of the Board’s vice-presidents and the current chair of the organisation’s defence and interfaith division, said she was “delighted” to announce that she was standing, but warned that for many members of the community, the Board had ceased to be relevant.

Launching her campaign, she said Anglo-Jewry was at a “critical point.

“Antisemitism is on the rise, including, shamefully, in the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn; Jewish traditions, from milah to shechita, are under threat; and for too many Jews, our representative body isn't relevant.

“I have led the fight on all of these issues. I was the first to call the Chakrabarti report out for what it was, a ‘whitewash’; I have been at the forefront of the campaign against the introduction of the so-called ‘cab-rank rule’ by the coroner, Mary Hassell; and I've travelled the UK, reaching out to every corner of our community to fight antisemitism, defend Israel and promote interfaith work.”

On Friday, Dr Gewolb, who is also a Board vice-president and chair of its community and education division, announced her own candidacy.

She said: “With my three years as vice-president, at the coal face of British Jewry every day, I am best placed to carry out this crucial role at a particularly challenging time for our community.

"Representing the community and education division, I have shown support for all Jewish communities throughout the UK, attending their events, their commemorations. I attend interfaith meetings and have been doing a lot of outreach work with non-Jewish children.

"When I started as chair of community and education, the priority was not on outreach work," Dr Gewolb said.

"We have a Jewish Living Experience exhibition – we had one copy of this, and now and again people used to travel the country with it. I ran for vice-president on the strength of wanting to increase this work. And it has exponentially increased. We now have five copies of the Jewish Living Experience going throughout the country, thousands  on non-Jewish children getting the opportunity of learning about the community. This has been my way of tackling antisemitism – through the education of our children."

Mrs van der Zyl went on to state that “as president of the Board of Deputies, I will fight against antisemitism every single day, defend Israel’s legitimacy and its centrality to Jewish identity, champion Jewish life across the UK and make the Board relevant to the Jewish community.”

Nominations for the Board’s honorary officer positions – including for president – open during the week of March 26, with candidates needing to be nominated by 20 deputies. Nominations close on April 26, with a postal vote running from April 30 to May 11.

So far the only individual to publicly declare his candidacy for a vice presidential position is Tal Ofer, the deputy for Chigwell and Hainault synagogue. 

Jonathan Arkush, the current president, has said he will not be running again.

The results will be announced at a Board meeting on May 13, with the elected officers taking up their positions on June 1.

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