For some time now, I've been concerned about the way things are going at the Board of Deputies. There seems to have been a bizarre case of covert left/Peace Now entryism, whereby, despite the predominantly small-c conservative and very pro-Israel outlook of the overwhelming majority of the membership and those they represent, the Presidency of the Board is now someone who is or was the leader of Peace Now UK; two of the most senior officers are either Peace Now supporters or signed up supporters of the Labour Party or the Liberal Party.
Then there's the rise and rise of the unelected Jewish Leadership Council which is in fact a self-selecting group of millionaires and billionaires, most of whom have Chairmanship positions in whichever of the major Jewish charities they bankroll plus an increasing tendency to co-opt key seniors and officers from the Board and the major charities they fund. It's been obvious for some time that they were increasingly seeking to bypass the Board and install themselves as the go-to organization for government and other agencies who potentially fund government projects in the community.
That would be a matter for concern or cynicism if that's all it amounted to. But it's very clear that there's also a political agenda being pushed here which includes well left-of-centre and Peace-Now friendly attitudes towards Israel and how British Jews can help bring peace. This is a view which is shared by a tiny minority of mainstream British Jews.
And there also seems to be a wish to push a "cross-communal" agenda in which only those programmes which have orthodox and non-orthodox agendas and personnel will get the support of funders. This too is a highly controversial approach which would not be endorsed by the majority orthodox membership, because their religious laws exclude working with non-orthodox movements, following the original Torah command to have nothing to do with those who come along and tell the Jewish people to update or change its laws.
It seemed for a long time that no-one in the Board was going to move against this tendency, even though the vast majority of the membership could stop it if it united and avoided key Board offices being filled with the entryists and their nominees.
Then Jonathan Arkush, a Board Vice-President spoke out. And promptly had the alliiance of the billionaires with the Left/Peace Now tendency jump on him. Mike Davis, whose contribution to Judaism seems primarily to consist of donations from the billions he makes as the major shareholder of a goldmining company threatened to pull funding from the Board. So nice to see the colour of his arguments. Jerry Lewis, VP and general stalwart of the Labour and traditional Israel left, Peace Now-sympathetic, fumed at Arkush and called on him to resign. Laurence Brass, Liberal Party stalwart and Board top brass fulminated on at Arkush likewise.
Well, respect, Jonathan Arkush. And commiserations. You now know the entire weight of nastiness these grandees can bring down on you. I hope you don't give up. I hope you make plenty of allies, keep your nerve, and go on fighting for a Board of Deputies which really represents the people who vote for it, and which reasserts its role as the reference point for decisions about the development of the Jewish community and British Jewish communal relations with Israel.