The Board of Deputies – 260 years young: A message from Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl
I hope you are well during these very challenging times.
On this day 260 years ago, November 3rd 1760, shortly after the ascension of King George III to the throne, seven representatives (or Deputados in Portuguese) of England’s Sephardi Jewish community, met together to discuss the pressing communal issues of the day. The challenges that the fledgling Jewish community faced included Jews being banned from many professions and universities, and an inability to become naturalised citizens due to the need to swear a Christian oath.
These seven Deputados, or Deputies, were the forerunner of what eventually, with the involvement of England’s Ashkenazi community, became today’s Board of Deputies.
Over the past 260 years, the Board of Deputies has played an active role through many dramatic changes in Jewish history. However, we have never played a more crucial role than over the past few years.
Last week, the publication of the EHRC report into antisemitism in the Labour Party marked a watershed moment for the Board. Together with communal allies, we have spent years waging a battle we never wanted to have to fight, including the significant #EnoughisEnough demonstration in Parliament Square which marked a turning point in this difficult period. We were particularly pleased to see the EHRC report reinforce our Ten Pledges on how to tackle antisemitism, that we persuaded Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner to sign up to in January to when they were standing for Leader and Deputy Leader respectively. Now, as the work to clear out the problems in the Labour Party begins, the Board of Deputies will continue to provide its support to all those striving to drive out hatred and racism from society. This starts tomorrow, when we will lead a communal delegation to meet Keir Starmer to talk about where we go from here.
Supporting Our Communities During Coronavirus
Since the UK went into lockdown nearly eight months ago, the Board of Deputies has played a critical role in ensuring that the needs of the Jewish community are represented to the Government, ensuring that religious freedoms are always considered, and wherever possible, safeguarded, during these unprecedented times. From the Coronavirus Bill, where we were able to secure a legislative change to prevent Jews and Muslims being cremated against their will, to the collection and publication of accurate data on deaths in the community due to the virus, we have been on the frontline throughout.
Promoting Racial Inclusivity
Following the racist murder of George Floyd in the USA, the Board of Deputies was quick to recognise that, while the outpouring of solidarity with the Black community from many Jewish institutions was heartening, to effect lasting change it needed to be matched by a willingness in the community to learn and strive to become a more welcoming environment for its own Black members. We swiftly announced the launch of our Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community, chaired by eminent journalist Stephen Bush. The Commission’s report will be published in early 2021.
As an independent charity, the Board of Deputies relies solely on communal funding to exist. In order to continue to advocate for a sustainable Jewish future in the UK, we need your assistance.
Please give generously to support the work of the Board of Deputies, one of Anglo-Jewry’s oldest and most venerable communal institutions, so that we can continue to serve the community for a further 260 years and beyond!To make a donation, please click here. We are so grateful for your support.
All best wishes