A victory for transparency and common sense

20 Jun

This is a guest post by Richard Verber, Deputy for Limmud. Follow him on twitter @richardverber

Campaigning is not easy. Human beings are, in general, creatures of habit. It’s how we make sense of the world around us. Change can be unsettling, even frightening. It’s why, to take a mild example, so many of us rarely change our bank account, even though we know that we could probably get a better deal by switching providers.

It’s this knowledge which underpins the careful reforms Changing the Board is helping to generate at the Board of Deputies. The Board has been in need of urgent change for some while now.

If it is to continue being the representative body of British Jewry, then it needs to become more representative of and of greater interest to the whole of British Jewry. In the short-term, we can help legitimise the Board’s claim to represent all British Jews by adding a level of transparency and scrutiny to some of the Board’s work.

One of the ways of increasing transparency was to lobby to have Board of Deputies plenary meetings filmed and streamed live on the internet. Doing so would offer those unable to make the meetings (which are open to all) the opportunity to follow proceedings, and provides a level of scrutiny to all British Jews for decisions taken in their name.

Working through the Finance and Organisation division of the Board, we introduced live streaming on a trial basis, which was ratified by a vote taken by all Deputies at last Sunday’s meeting.

This is an important moment for the work of Changing the Board – a grassroots movement of Jews from across the religious, political and age spectrum. Most deputies have welcomed our engagement. Some haven’t – particularly those who have been at the Board for decades. Chickens don’t vote for Friday night dinner, as the saying goes. But we’ve been successful because we’re not right wing or left wing, we’re not orthodox or progressive, we’re not young or old: we’re all of those things in a way, but above all, we’re just a sensible voice that believes things can get better.

Wherever the Board’s discussions go with the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) (and we hope they’re productive and constructive) the best parts of the Board of Deputies – the democracy, transparency and accountability – will play a central part going forward thanks to our work.

There is much still to do, and we’d like you to be involved. Conversations are on-going between representatives of the Board and the JLC. What do you think about the so-called ‘Ten Propositions’ outlining how a new organisation incorporating the Board and the JLC might look?


Update: We have heard that there has been a challenge to the amendment in the motion. We’ll have more on this when the Board releases a statement.

Please click here to see our note to editors.


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