Board of Deputies of British Jews

Board of Deputies of British Jews
Registration no. 222160
Headquarters London, UK
Region served
Jonathan Arkush

The Board of Deputies of British Jews (historically London Board of Deputies and London Committee of Deputies of British Jews) is the main representative body of British Jews. Established in London in 1760, when seven Deputies were appointed by the elders of the Sephardi congregation of Spanish and Portuguese Jews to form a standing committee and pay homage to George III on his accession to the throne;[2] shortly thereafter the Ashkenazi Jewish congregation from Central and Eastern Europe similarly appointed their own "Secret Committee for Public Affairs" to deal with any urgent political matters that might arise,[3] and safeguard the interests of British Jews as a religious community, both in the British Isles, and in the colonies.[4] They soon began to meet together as occasions arose, and then on a more frequent basis; by the 1810s they appear to have united as one body.[5]

The Board has since become a widely recognised forum for the views of the different sectors of the UK Jewish community.

Members and organisation

The Board is currently led by Jonathan Arkush, Deputy for Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue, who was elected as President in May 2015. The Vice-Presidents are Richard Verber (Senior Vice-President, Deputy for World Jewish Relief), Marie van der Zyl (Deputy for West London Synagogue), and Sheila Gewolb (Deputy for Cardiff United Synagogue). The Treasurer is Stuart MacDonald (Deputy for Liberal Judaism). Jonathan Arkush took the decision not to run for the chair of council of the Jewish Leadership Council, despite previous President Vivian Wineman having held this post.

The chief executive of the Board is Gillian Merron, a former Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lincoln from 1997 to 2010. From 2009 to 2010 she was Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health at the Department of Health. She leads a team of professional staff including Director of Public Affairs Philip Rosenberg (formerly of Faiths Forum for London), International Affairs Officer David Walsh (formerly of Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre) and Communications Officer Simon Round (formerly the Jewish Chronicle's features writer).

The Board receives Deputies elected by individual synagogues, confederations of synagogues, and other organisations within the Jewish community such as charities and youth groups. It serves as the principal reference point for government, the media and wider society. All matters tending to impact on the life of Jews in Britain fall within the Board's remit, including an active interfaith programme.

The Board of Deputies offices are co-located with the United Jewish Israel Appeal in Kentish Town.

The Board is the British affiliate of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the world-wide umbrella organisation of Jewish communities and is the UK member of the European Jewish Congress (EJC).

Past presidents

The most historically notable and longest-serving past president was the Victorian philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore, who in the nineteenth century travelled widely to assist Jewish communities in foreign countries, faced by persecution at the time. A complete list of presidents, and interim positions during these travels, is given below.[2] A complete list of presidents and interim positions follows:


Interpal allegation

In 2003, the Board, on its web site, reproduced an extract from a US State Department report that suggested that the aid organisation Palestinian Relief and Development Fund (Interpal) was helping to fund terrorist organisations. Interpal threatened to sue for libel, whereupon the Board retracted and apologised for its comments[8][9]

Oliver Finegold affair

The Board became involved in the Oliver Finegold affair when the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone made comments to a Jewish reporter, Oliver Finegold, comparing him or the newspaper he worked for, to a concentration camp guard. Many individuals and media commentators objected to the remark. Along with the Commission for Racial Equality, the Board filed a complaint to the Standards Board for England, calling for the Mayor to apologise to the reporter. The Mayor made a statement condemning the Holocaust, but stood by his remarks to the journalist, mentioning in passing his belief that the Board of Jewish Deputies only represents a small section of the Jewish community.[10]

Joint Statement with Muslim Council of Britain

The Board received widespread criticism in the Jewish community and from the Department for Communities and Local Government for a joint statement issued in September 2014 with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).[11] In December 2015, the new leadership of the Board distanced itself from the MCB over the latter’s alleged links to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.[12]


Independent Jewish Voices

On 5 February 2007, a group of prominent British Jews, such as Nobel laureate Harold Pinter and lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman, launched an organisation called Independent Jewish Voices to counterbalance what they perceive as uncritical support of Israel and its support for Zionism[13] by major Jewish institutions in the UK, criticising particularly the Board of Deputies of British Jews.[14]

Relationship with Scotland's Jews

After Devolution in 1999, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities was formed to give the Jewish Community of Scotland a single democratically accountable voice in dealings with the Scottish Parliament and Executive, other communities, and other statutory and official bodies. The intention, when it was established was for it to stand in the same relationship to the Scottish Government as the Board of Deputies of British Jews does to the UK Government. Consequently, the Council is autonomous in matters devolved by the Scotland Act, such as justice, health and welfare, and community relations, whilst the Board of Deputies speaks for all Britain's Jews on reserved matters such as foreign affairs and equality legislation.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Board of Deputies of British Jews.


  1. "Charity overview".
  2. 1 2 Board of Deputies of British Jews, London Metropolitan Archives
  3. Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews in England, Chapter 10, The Reign of George III, 1760–1815, 1941
  4. Joseph Jacobs, London Committee of Deputies of British Jews
  5. History of the Board Archived 23 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Board of Deputies of British Jews
  6. "Blair unveils Holocaust memorial plan". BBC News. 26 January 2000. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  7. Rachel Sylvester (17 July 2000). "First woman elected to lead Jewish board". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  8. Dominic Casciani, Islamic charity cleared of Hamas link, BBC News, 24 September 2003.
  9. Dominic Casciani, Top Jewish group 'terror' apology, BBC News, 29 December 2005.
  10. Ros Taylor, "Livingstone Suspension Frozen by Judge," The Guardian 28 February 2006, accessed 9 February 2007.
  11. "Board of Deputies approves controversial Muslim Council of Britain statement". Retrieved 2016-07-22.
  12. "Board distances itself from Muslim Council of Britain over Muslim Brotherhood 'links'". Retrieved 2016-07-22.
  13. "".
  14. Amy Goodman, "Independent Jewish Voices: New British Group Speaks Out on Israeli Policies in Occupied Territories," interview with Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Susie Orbach, Democracy Now! 9 February 2007, accessed 9 February 2007.

External links

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