The Board is changing!

14 Feb

This is a guest post by Robert Stone,  Deputy for Finchley Reform Synagogue and Chair of the Board of Deputies Organisation Sub-Committee

The debate on cooperating with Oxfam through the Grow Tatzmiach project which took place at the Board of Deputies Plenary meeting in January was a demonstration of what the Board is capable of. The prevailing atmosphere was of mutual respect and good humour between people who held opposite opinions with equal passion and conviction, and the arguments on both side were presented cogently and intelligently. This has hitherto been all too rare in Board debates on issues relating to Israel. I was proud to be part of this and to see the Board’s democracy in action.

On the other hand, the messy, disjointed and ill-tempered process over several months that eventually led to the drafting of the motions for debate at that Plenary was a demonstration of why the Board is not yet in a position to achieve the coherence and authority that it needs to if it is to be a powerful voice for Anglo Jewry. There is an urgent need to review the organisation of the Board’s business and specifically how Board policies and decisions are formulated, approved and implemented.

The Finance and Organisation Division of the Board is therefore proposing to undertake an organisation review in parallel with the strategy review being undertaken by the Executive Committee. The aim is ensure that the Board fulfils its mandate as effectively as possible and that it does so in a manner that empowers all stakeholders – members of constituencies, Deputies, Divisional Boards, regional bodies, the Executive Committee and the staff of the Board. This task is to be initiated by a sub-committee led by Richard Verber and myself.

As Victor Hugo is thought to have said (but didn’t!), “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” There are many signs that a reformed, vigorous Board of Deputies is an idea whose time has come – not least the establishment of Changing the Board. On a personal note, it was an article about Changing the Board that persuaded me to stand for the Board again. I had left in 2006 after six years in sheer frustration at the way the Board then operated, but now I think that the tide is turning and that there is real momentum behind the growing calls to reform and reinvigorate the Board.

It is going to be hard, and much of the work is going to be unexciting. The  organisation sub-committee is proposing to begin with some very pedestrian tasks like the terms of reference of the Divisional Boards and the allocation of powers, responsibilities and accountability between them and Executive Committee. In themselves such tasks do not seem terribly inspiring, but taken with the pressure for change coming from many different stakeholders, it is part of an undertaking that is actually very exciting, and has great potential benefits for the whole Jewish community in the UK.

Robert will be outlining the work of his group on Sunday at February’s Board of Deputies’ plenary. All Deputies are welcome to get involved. Email us to volunteer or for more information.


Please click here to see our note to editors.

Read more recent comment:

The Board will only be legitimate when it’s seen to actually do stuff by Peter Mason

Under 35 Observers – the future or the past? by Rob Sassoon

Live steaming – good, twitter abuse – bad by “Abu Sassy”

I’m not backward in coming forward. So why have I found the Board such a tough nut to crack? by Amanda Ruback

Oxfam, Grow: NGO. Do we do it, yes or no? by Gabriel Webber

A real change in conduct by Daniel Grabiner


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