A busy summer internship at the Board

October 21, 2014 - Board of Deputies - Share: Twitter Facebook

By Josh Holt
For the past six weeks I have been interning at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and my experience there has been like no other. I have gained valuable insights into the inner workings of the Jewish community, whilst grappling to understand the monumental scale of the work undertaken by a team of 12 dedicated workers, crammed into a small and creaky old London office.

There really is nothing glamourous about the Board. This much is clear from the moment you walk in the door; however the vital and underappreciated work that they do and the immense worth it has to the British Jewish community, is invaluable.

During my time at the Board, I have witnessed and participated in a broad range of projects, each with varied success and communal reception. The democratic nature of the organisation ensures that not every British Jew can be satisfied all of the time, as made explicitly clear by the recent protests outside the office by Young Jews of the Left, bearing the sign ‘The Board of Deputies condones genocide in Gaza’. This reality illustrates the limitations on the Board as a functioning democracy, as not all voices within the Jewish community can always be considered. This is an extreme example, however the truth remains that as communal leaders, the Board has an obligation to act in a measured manner that is representative of the majority of Britain’s Jews, and not just those who shout the loudest.

Throughout my six and a half weeks here, I have seen what is perhaps the most proactive organisation I have ever encountered, continually responding to legitimate criticism and adapting policy to formulate a suitable response in both actions and words. This is evident from the outcome of the Community Town Hall Meeting, chaired and organised by the Board for the benefit of British Jewry. In this meeting, it quickly became apparent that the community wanted a more visible response from the organisation, and this has been given, be it by direct involvement in the Kedem Buycott, the Sainsbury’s protest, the Anti-Semitism rally, or the Brighton Israel rally as well as many, many more.

There is undeniably more work to be done in communicating and promoting the Board’s work to the Jewish public; however the very nature of this work is behind the scenes, and this must be respected.

The Board has a difficult responsibility to find a balance between playing the part of a communal leader, and engaging in diplomacy with officials. It is because of this that the organisation cannot possibly be at the forefront of every single protest and march, however there should be, and usually is, a strong sense of support from the leadership for each of these events.

The notion of protest is a precious part of any functioning democracy; however this is futile without the behind-the-scenes diplomacy that must accompany it. The Board is the Jewish community’s direct access to this diplomatic avenue, and this must be appreciated.

12 people representing 300,000 is insufficient to say the least, yet the tangible achievements emanating from the office are truly profound.

It is paramount to understand that there is no lack of energy from within our community or our leadership. All that is needed is a means to better harness and channel the vigour that we all share to tackle the growing concern about our future as British Jews in an ever-more hostile environment.

The primary outcome of my time at the Board is a renewed sense of personal passion to approach Jewish issues, bettering the image of the Jewish community to the rest of the world, whilst simultaneously improving the community’s faith in their leadership.

The Board is constantly adapting and it is my hope that, with the community’s support, this continual fluidity can be furthered, changing the Board for the better.