UK Politics

Community Leaders

Community leaders seem to be flavour of the month in local and national government, as the left turns away from the model of a secular state which is neutral towards faith groups, towards a policy of engaging actively with the dominant hierarchies within the traditional – and usually conservative – religious communities.

It is assumed that community leaders in some way speak for the faithful who they claim to represent. If they didn’t, there’d be little point in talking to these middle aged (usually) men (usually) with beards (usually) at all. But how many community leaders have actually been elected? And who have they been elected by?

The irrepressible Leslie Bunder of SomethingJewish was pulled up short when he noticed that the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews – in its words, the “Voice of British Jewry” – had taken to describing himself as “the elected leader of the British Jewish community“.

What, asks Leslie Bunder, gives him the right to style himself in that fashion?

You see, Henry Grunwald was elected by a select group of people, around 300 or so who are called Deputies. These people come from synagogues and other communal organisations.

Rather than being elected on the basis on an open vote to the community, the votes are done by these deputies. In order to be a deputy, you also need to be recognized by the Board. Of course, there are also many Jewish groups and synagogues that do not belong to the Board, nor have any interest in belonging to it.

The Board makes many assumptions about its own role and what it thinks it is doing for the Jewish community.

By allowing its own president to say he is the elected leader of the British community, shows the arrogance this 245 year old organisation has, both for itself and indeed for the community. It claims to have monthly meetings but does not publicly advertise the dates and times to its own community. One would assume there would be minutes from such meetings, but it does not appear to publish them or provide access to what was said.

I never recall as a member of a synagogue being asked for my vote across a number of candidates who should become the next president of the Board of Deputies. Indeed, speaking to many other people, I know of no one who has ever been canvassed or invited to vote for a Board president or who should be the leader of the Jewish community.

The Board is in urgent need of reform. it is in urgent need to be truly representative of the Jewish community, rather than the 300 or so people who make up what it calls the deputies.

Read the rest.

Its about time that government started listening to the voices of citizens, rather than allowing self appointed spokesmen to grab the microphone.