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Women form majority of Board of Deputies' leadership for the first time

The election of Marie van der Zyl as president and Sheila Gewolb and Amanda Bowman represent a moment of history

    Dr Sheila Gewolb, elected yesterday as senior vice-president
    Dr Sheila Gewolb, elected yesterday as senior vice-president

    For the first time in its 258-year history, the majority of the Board of Deputies’ officers are women - a landmark in the leadership of British Jewry.

    After Marie van der Zyl yesterday became only the second woman to be chosen as president, Sheila Gewolb, Amanda Bowman and Edwin Shuker were elected vice-president.

    The fifth officer, Stuart MacDonald was unopposed for a second three-year term as treasurer.

    Mrs van der Zyl - who along with Dr Gewolb was a vice-president during the current session - will succeed Jonathan Arkush as president at the beginning of June after defeating Dr Gewolb, Mr Shuker and Simon Hochhauser.

    The four candidates had endured no fewer than five hustings in London, Glasgow and Manchester over the past fortnight before a final chance to make their case before deputies on Sunday.

    Dr Gewolb will serve as senior vice-president after winning the highest number of votes in the election for vice-president, which was contested by nine candidates including two other women.

    The only woman previously to have been president of British Jewry’s main representative body was Jo Wagerman from 2000-2003.

    The Board’s chief executive is also a woman, Gillian Merron.

    Mrs van der Zyl defeated Edwin Shuker by 132 votest to 94 under the single transferable vote system, after Dr Gewolb and Dr Hochhauser had been eliminated. Mrs van der Zyl gained 96 first -preference votes, Dr Hochhauser 59, Mr Shuker 51 and Dr Gewolb 31.

    In her first interview since her election, Mrs van der Zyl told Radio 4’s Today programme this morning the Board was ready to keep up pressure to ensure action from the Labour Party on tackling antisemitism.

    It expected Labour to adopt the “the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism” and the resolution of disciplinary cases against Ken Livingstone and former Momentum vice-chairman Jackie Walker by the end of July, she said.

    When presenter John Humphrys suggested theBoard could do little but make “a bit of fuss”, she responded “there’s lot of things we can do. We can keep protesting, we can keep asking for inquiries, debates in Parliament.

    “The power of people coming together and pressing for change and pressing to be heard is very powerful.”

    Asked if the Board was telling Jews not to vote Labour, she replied, “We are not saying don’t vote Labour. But as will be seen from the results, especially in Barnet, the voters have spoken.”

    Pressed further, she said, “We want to see change. We want to see Jeremy Corbyn lead the Labour Party and carry out his pledge to root out antisemitism and all forms of racism within the party.”

    The party still had a “long way to go,” she said. “We have a meeting that’s in the diary for July so I am going to see what happens.”

     

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