THE next Board of Deputies president will work closely with the leaders of the regional communities.
That was the message given by the four presidential candidates who took part in a Hustings meeting, organised by the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council on Thursday.
Candidates at the meeting, held in the Jewish Care Scotland Walton Community Care Centre, were Marie van der Zyl, Dr Simon Hochhauser, Edwin Shuker and Dr Sheila Gewolb.
Candidates for vice-president taking part were Amanda Bowman, Robert Festenstein, Gary Mond and Tal Ofer.
The Jewish Telegraph asked the presidential candidates how they would deal with a situation in Scotland such as an event for which the local community had concerns, given that the BoD had sometimes acted unilaterally in the past.
Mrs van der Zyl, who commended the work of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, said: “We will consult locally to see what support we can give.
“All of this has to be in consultation with the local Representative Council.”
Dr Hochhauser said that they had learned that it was important to recognise that the local organisations were the democratic voice of Scottish Jewry.
He was prepared to work with the local representatives and said that Scotland had a lot to offer to the BoD.
Dr Gewolb stated that this was the local community’s patch and that the BoD should come and help — but be guided by the local leadership.
In her opening statement she had said: “There is more work to be done for us to have a closer, more meaningful relationship with the Scottish Jewish community.
“I will work together with SCoJeC and the Rep Council to make that happen.”
Mr Shuker said: “Sometimes there is pressure on the BoD to act, but we should do so when there is a consensus and a need.
“I don’t see a reason why we should act other than to empower people.”
Asked about the problem of getting young people involved in communal life, Dr Gewolb noted that more people were needed to engage and recognise that the BoD was no longer a “talking shop for old, grey men”.
Dr Gewolb added: “We need to encourage younger people to become involved.
“I would create a category of senior deputy, so that they could move over and encourage and mentor young people to take their place.”
Mr Shuker’s view was that there was no point recruiting young people and more women if they didn’t make the BoD relevant for them. When it became so, there would be a queue.
Dr Hochhauser added that the lack of younger people was a problem right across the board and that new ways had to be found to engage them.
Mrs van der Zyl said: “The BoD has to be the place for the issues of the day to be debated and somewhere for a wide diversity of people to come.
“We have to give young people a space on the executive so that they can have a share in the decision-making.”
The vice-presidential candidates were asked what they would do if Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn didn’t take the recent meeting with the BoD and Jewish Leadership Council and the complaints to heart.
Mrs Bowman said: “We were very clear what our demands were.
“It does appear that Mr Corbyn doesn’t care about antisemitism. Since the meeting, some things are moving slowly forward. We have asked for a further meeting in July.”
Mr Ofer said that the real test would be for Mr Corbyn to deliver some action and suggested that the first cases should be the dismissal of Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker from the Labour Party.
Mr Festenstein said: “We are missing the wider picture that there has been antisemitism in the regressive left for a long time now and there is no big stick to use to make these people change.
“We need to go after these leftists who spout terrible things about our community with no comeback.”
Mr Mond agreed, saying that Mr Corbyn was a symptom, not the cause.
He hoped that those on the right of the Labour Party would have the guts to leave and form their own party.
The meeting was chaired by Rep Council co-president Evy Yedd and the vote of thanks given by Board of Deputies Regional Council chairman Paul Edlin, who, with Rep Council operations director Orli Schechter, organised the event.