Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Board of Deputies of British Jews

(Israel Twitter)-Board of Deputies of British Jews is the main representative body of British Jews. Founded in 1760 as a joint committee of the Sephardi (Spanish and Portuguese) and Ashkenazi (Central and Eastern European) Jewish communities in London it has since become a widely recognised forum for the views of the different sectors of the UK Jewish community.

Members and activities

The Board is currently led by Vivian Wineman, Deputy for Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, who was elected as President in May 2009. The Vice Presidents are Jonathan Arkush (senior Vice President), Deputy for Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue; Dr Paul Edlin, Deputy for Glasgow Jewish Representative Council; and D Jerry Lewis, Deputy for Hampstead Synagogue. The Treasurer is Laurence Brass, Deputy for Bushey Synagogue. The President of the Board is normally the Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council and this development is seen to have extended the influence and reach of the Board's President.
The Chief Executive of the Board is Jon Benjamin who succeeded Neville Nagler in 2005. Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko was appointed Public Affairs Director in 2007 and Colin Spanjar and Atalia Cadranel were appointed as directors of the Community Issues Division and of PR & Communications in June 2009.

Past presidents

A notable past President was the Victorian philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore, who in the nineteenth century travelled around the world assisting Jews facing persecution. More recently Greville Janner MP (now Lord Janner) was a President.
Sir Moses Montefiore (1835–1874)
David Lindo Alexander (1903-1917)
Selig Brodetsky (1940 - )
Lord Barnett Janner (1955–1964)
Greville Janner, QC (1978–1984)
Eldred Tabachnik, QC
Henry Grunwald OBE QC (2003–2009)
Vivian Wineman (2009 - )

Criticisms and controversies

In 2003, the Board, on its web site, reproduced an extract from a US State Department report that suggested that the aid organisation Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) was helping to fund terrorist organisations. Interpal threatened to sue for libel, whereupon the Board retracted and apologized for its comments
The Board became involved in the Oliver Finegold affair when the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone made comments to a Jewish reporter, Oliver Finegold, comparing him or the newspaper he worked for, to a concentration camp guard. Many individuals and media commentators objected to the remark. Along with the Commission for Racial Equality, the Board filed a complaint to the Standards Board for England, calling for the Mayor to apologize to the reporter. The Mayor made a statement condemning the Holocaust, but stood by his remarks to the journalist, mentioning in passing his belief that the Board of Jewish Deputies only represents a small section of the Jewish community.
On 5 February 2007, a group of prominent British Jews, such as Nobel laureate Harold Pinter and lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman, launched an organization called Independent Jewish Voices to counterbalance what they perceive as uncritical support of Israel by major Jewish institutions in the UK, criticizing particularly the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

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