Sir Mick Davis to step down as JLC chairman

In a letter informing the council’s members of his decision, Sir Mick said the community had too many charities competing for limited resources.


Sir Mick Davis has announced his departure as chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council with a broad attack on British Jewry’s communal infrastructure, describing it as“not fit for purpose”.

In a letter on Wednesday informing the council’s members of his decision not to seek re-election, Sir Mick said the community had too many charities competing for limited resources.

He has been in the role for eight years and overseen the significant expansion of the organisation, but will leave in May.

“The time is right to allow others with equal passion to take the community forward with a fresh vision,” Sir Mick wrote.

Knighted in 2015 for his work on David Cameron’s Holocaust Commission, Sir Mick said the JLC’s 32 member organisations had achieved “far more than we ever could working alone”.

He said he had prioritised Jewish education and schooling, had “responded to the threat of anti-Zionist assaults on Israel and our connection to it”, tackled challenges in the welfare system, and attempted to groom potential future leaders.

But he added: “Our communal architecture is not fit for purpose. Too many charities and organisations compete in the same space for the same resource. Every need must be met but philanthropic leaders have a duty to seek out a more efficient and effective approach.

“I feel I must note my regret that the Board of Deputies and the JLC could not achieve closer organisational alignment during my tenure.”

Sir Mick said a blueprint for the two organisations to work together had been outlined under his leadership, but had been allowed to “lie fallow”. He acknowledged the current “positive working relationship” between the executive staff at the JLC and the Board, noting “when that prevails the community prospers”.

His leadership of the council has not been without controversy. In 2010 Sir Mick publicly attacked Benjamin Netanyahu over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and called for British Jews to be more critical of Israel. His comments sparked debate across diaspora communities.

There was further furore three years later when the JLC chairman claimed Israel was not doing enough to convey a commitment to peace, adding that diaspora efforts to fight delegitimisation of the country were being hampered by Mr Netanyahu’s government.

In 2012, Jonathan Arkush, the then Board vice-president, led the criticism of the JLC, calling it "unelected, unaccountable and...unacceptable" before apologising.

In his letter, Sir Mick wrote: “From its inception, the JLC has been accused by some of being non-representative.

“Ironically, those who have made the largest financial contributions to the community have received the most abuse. Yet I have never come across a JLC trustee who sought status from their position; rather they have brought their stature to benefit the work of the JLC and its members and contributed mightily to UK Jewry.”

Simon Johnson, JLC chief executive, said he had been “inspired” by Sir Mick’s “strategic thought, generosity, vision and passion for the community”.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “Since arriving to these shores, he has relentlessly and generously committed himself to the betterment of Jewish life here in the UK, in Israel and beyond.

"I have personally cherished his friendship and wise counsel and I have no doubt that he will continue to play a most valuable role in the future of the Jewish people.”

Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said: “Mick’s contribution to the UK Jewish community has been immense. He has been a strong Leader at the JLC with a powerful and incisive grasp of the political cross-currents that we have to navigate. In addition, he was been personally generous in supporting many Jewish causes.”

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Reform Judaism’s Senior Rabbi, said the community had been “transformed” under his leadership.

The JLC has opened nominations for the election of the next chair. Council members including vice-presidents and trustees are eligible to stand, with nominations closing on April 5 and the eligible candidates being announced the following day. If the election is contested, hustings will take place in May.

Among those who could succeed him, Jonathan Goldstein, chair of the JLC’s education division and investment company chief executive, is a possible frontrunner.  Mr Arkush, now Board president, has ruled himself out.

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