A proposal to reduce the number of Deputies

10 Mar

This is a guest post by Alan Shackman, Deputy for Finchley Reform Synagogue.

Having been a deputy for the past three years, I have first-hand experience of the frustration of having no role and of attending plenaries with next to no chance of making a contribution.

It would actually be extremely simple to reduce the number of deputies. Limit each organisation to just one deputy! But give this deputy a number of votes according to the size of the organisation they represent. So a deputy for a small organisation would have just one vote, while a deputy for a larger one would have two or more. (The TUC works perfectly well by this ‘block vote’ method so why not Board of Deputies?) Of course, there’s no reason why an organisation should not identify substitute(s) to attend if their deputy was unavailable, but only actual deputies could be elected to committees. Once the number is reduced, it should also be a principle that all deputies should have a specific role: if not on a committee then at least on one of the many sub-groups that each committee spawns.

This arrangement might even lead to more organisations holding a genuine election for their deputy. At present, with I believe only some 7 out of 147 having had elections, the claim that the Board of Deputies comprises democratically-elected deputies is extremely tenuous. If exposed it could so easily be used to undermine our position.

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3 Responses to “A proposal to reduce the number of Deputies”

  1. Anthony T March 10, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    Interesting proposal. I absolutely agree there are too many deputies for the organisation to be effective. And to some extent this is a pragmatic solution – it doesn’t require a radical reform to how organisations are represented. However inevitably this will rebalance the Board in favour of smaller communitee: For instance you can weight deputies’ voting power according to community size, but would we also weight how long each deputy gets to speak at the mic? And by virtue of higher numbers, the small communities would surely be more heavily represented on the Divisions, where most Board work actually gets done.

    A different model for having fewer deputies (not one I particularly like) is the one that has been touted as part of the JLC merger: The JLC prefers a bicameral body, with one chamber representing shuls and another chamber representing organisations. The Board would be the former, but would shrink in size a little because deputies for organisations like the United Synagogue and UJS would be in the other chamber. This design has a certain elegance in terms of reducing duplication, but I dislike the bicameral nature of the organisation, and I think Board plenaries would be even more devastatingly dull if they didn’t have all the CTB folk from organisations like UJS, Limmud, etc.

  2. Gabriel Webber March 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    The problem here is that it means each community is only represented by one voice, and while eg. one-third of the members may want X to be BoD president while two-thirds want Y, the smaller contingent would not only be disenfranchised in a Board election, but ‘their’ votes would actually be wielded by someone using them to vote for Y.

  3. Laurence Julius March 10, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    It raises interesting questions

    1. Engagement of the deputies. We have 10 3 hour meetings a year – how can the time be used effectively in communicating key messages / high profile speakers, effective networking by the elected officers and the deputies – so everyone gains an understanding of common issues and there is an effective funnel for sharing ideas etc

    it is not just a question of representation but of effective representation.

    2. Voting – the present voting method is shambolic – at the recent meetings with voting, there was scope for abuse. I support the suggestion of that the number of votes linked to size of membership and voting must be restricted to deputies and ensure that only one vote is cast per person.

    3. Too much power in the elected officials – on key issues they need to carry the deputies – there can be several months between meetings – and the elected officials need to consult on key non time bound issues. Interfaith at present is a hot issue – particularly on engaging with certain organisations/ individuals the UK government chooses not to. We are a highly respected organsiation by other faith groups – we give a halo to those we talk to and risk our halo when we talk to those we should not.

    Laurence Julius
    Deputy for Holland Park S&P

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