The director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) has accused the Board of Deputies of failing to back its Scottish members.
Addressing Sunday’s Board meeting in London, Ephraim Borowski asked why SCoJeC had not received financial support from the Board in 18 months. The council had previously been awarded £2,500 annually.
Board president Jonathan Arkush responded that “on the one hand, they are extremely emphatic about SCoJec’s independence… and on the other hand, the hand is out for money. I have to think quite carefully about our priorities and I personally did not see it was appropriate at the moment to continue that payment.”
He added that the Board had funded the Jewish manifesto for the Scottish elections in May.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Borowski claimed Mr Arkush’s reply was “unprincipled” and “a complete obfuscation. We have to be independent. We have to deal with a Scottish government that will not listen to an address in Kentish Town. Consequently, it is quite clear that the Scottish community needs financial help.”
A Board spokesperson said that it continued to back “advocacy efforts in Scotland” and offered “strategic advice”.
Discord over Board peace plan
The Board of Deputies is to launch a programme involving synagogues and churches to support “peace-making” between Israelis and Palestinians.
Invest in Peace, which has been in the pipeline for several months, is being developed with so far unnamed “church partners”.
The planned project came to light at Sunday’s meeting of the Board, where an attempt to lay down conditions for entering into joint programmes was overwhelmingly defeated.
Gary Mond, a deputy for JNF, moved a motion to block the Board from initiating projects with organisations which had expressed antisemitism, opposition to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state or support for boycotts of Israel.
He said that “by setting such red lines in stone we avoid a situation whereby a controversial project is entered into before the Board has had a chance to consider it”.
We have to talk to people who don’t agree with us
Mr Mond explained that he had been prompted to ensure no repetition of the Board’s joint project with the charity Oxfam from three years ago which was fiercely opposed by a minority of deputies. Its joint venture had caused “abject disillusionment” with the Board outside, he claimed.
Oxfam, although it does not back boycotts as such, opposes trade with Israeli settlements.
But Karen Newman, a deputy for Liberal Judaism and participant in the Oxfam programme, who opposed the resolution, said that “we have to be free to talk to people who don’t agree with us otherwise we are only talking to ourselves”.
The original seconder of the motion, Tal Ofer, a member of the Board’s executive, withdrew at the eleventh hour. Marie van der Zyl, who chairs the defence division, explained that Mr Ofer, who was not present on Sunday, had decided after consultation with deputies and former Board officers that the resolution would “not be helpful to the Board in the long term”.
Mr Mond was nevertheless under the impression that Invest for Peace had been dropped. “Thankfully, I gather that project isn’t proceeding,” he said on Sunday.
But a Board spokesman the following day confirmed that it was going ahead. It would, he said, “link local synagogues and churches to support positive peace-making between Israelis and Palestinians. It is something we have been developing with church partners. Over the coming months, we will be looking to engage more local synagogues and churches.”
● The Board of Deputies has been accused of “double standards” for refusing to make public disciplinary action against its members.
Gabriel Webber, a member of its executive, said that “just as we want Labour to be transparent when it disciplines members, so should we. The Board is no different. Double standards do not help our cause.”
But, in response to a question from Mr Webber at Sunday’s meeting, Board president Jonathan Arkush said he believed most deputies would prefer that disciplinary proceedings remain confidential because “sometimes in the heat of the moment, things are said”.
Board’s ex-social action chief has faith in new role
The Board of Deputies’ interfaith and social action officer has left after five years to join a new government-backed faith venture.
Rabbi Natan Levy has become head of operations at the Fayre Share Foundation, the charity founded by Jewish interfaith activist Maurice Ostro, vice-chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews.
The foundation is the lead partner in a consortium recently chosen by the Department for Community and Local Government to run Strengthening Faith Institutions.
Rabbi Levy, 42, feels that “global engagement among faiths is in a crucial stage. Religion matters. It drives wars and causes great acts of kindness. But nothing is standing still.
“The low-risk, low-reward approach that characterises a venerable organisation like the Board of Deputies holds an important role and long may it continue.
Global engagement among faiths is in a crucial stage
“But there is a crying need for bridges that push further, engage with more difficult voices and have less of a need to look over our shoulders.”
The Board made a “tremendous impact” on a limited budget.
With better funding it could “develop a long-term proactive strategy focused on examining why certain faith-based problems continue to rise again and again, and devote dedicated resources into creating constructive solutions towards them.
“Why do certain church organisations push BDS year after year? Can we move the needle on antisemitism within the Muslim community?
“One could envision it nurturing an interfaith team of experts, who could support Anglo-Jewry to confront the various issues of the moment, while laying the foundation towards 10-year change.”
Rabbi Levy explained that the Strengthening Faith Institutions’ programme would “support churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and gurdwaras to become healthier, more inclusive and professional.
“There is a recognition in both the government and third sector that faith centres are the oft-overlooked fulcrums of grassroots and effective change in a community.”
The foundation had a track record in innovation, he said, including the launch of a hub, Collaboration House, for a dozen interfaith charities, the CCJ among them