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Senior community figures ‘considering’ running to be Board of Deputies president

Race wide open after Jonathan Arkush, the current president, announced he would not stand for a second term

    Laura Marks and Sheila Gewolb

    A number of communal figures have said they are considering standing for the presidency of the Board of Deputies, with at least one potential candidate ruling himself out of the running.

    Sheila Gewolb and Laura Marks, current and former Board vice presidents respectively, said this week they were considering standing for the top job, after Jonathan Arkush, the current president, announced last month he would not be standing for a second term.

    Dr Gewolb, the current chair of the Board’s community and education division, told the JC she had been “approached by lots of people, saying ‘have you considered this, we would strongly support you if you came forward.’

    “And I have to seriously consider it, but it is a huge role. I’ve got three years of experience [on the Board executive], I know what it entails, and I would say it’s a huge responsibility.”

    Ms Marks, chair of Mitzvah Day and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, ran for the presidency three years ago. She is considering another attempt, but has not yet reached a final decision, saying there were “many factors to consider.

    “Many people are asking me if I will stand,” she said.

    “I have a significant responsibility regarding HMDT and all the work I’m doing building stronger Jewish-Muslim relationships, as well as encouraging more diversity in our leadership.

    “I would want to be sure that what I do is for the best of the Board, these other major responsibilities, and of course, my family.”

    Adrian Cohen, who had been viewed as a potential candidate, has announced he will not be standing. He will support Marie van der Zyl, another Board vice-president who is understood to have serious interest in standing but is yet to comment on her intentions.

    Richard Verber, the Board's senior vice-president, is due to say in the next few days whether he will run, but it is thought he would prefer to spend more time with his family.

    Simon Hochhauser, former United Synagogue president, will not be standing, while Richard Benson, former chief executive of the Community Security Trust, has not ruled it out.

    Meanwhile, the Board has also announced a new initiative to encourage more diversity among its representatives, contacting women’s organisations and reaching out to youth groups.

    Announcing the campaign, Gillian Meron, Board chief executive, said: “In particular, women and young people have been historically under-represented as deputies and we would urge them to come forward so that their voices are heard.

    “We are also appealing to synagogues and other member organisations to do their utmost to ensure we reflect the make-up of our 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.

    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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