Why the JLC own goal was so easy to avoid

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE JEWISH Lead­er­ship Coun­cil’s com­mis­sion on women in Jewish lead­er­ship was a con­certed ef­fort to break the male stran­gle­hold on com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Since the com­mis­sion re­ported four years ago, the JLC has tried to en­cour­age progress. The 16 par­tic­i­pants on its Gamechang­ers scheme to groom fu­ture lead­ers was equally di­vided be­tween men and women.

The JLC’s lead­er­ship train­ing divi­sion, Lead, ran a de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme for women lead­ers called En­vi­sion last year, as well as a skills day for 45 fe­male com­mu­nal pro­fes­sion­als and lay lead­ers.

Which makes it all the more puz­zling how the JLC could score such a spec­tac­u­lar own goal last week.

It will ar­gue that it is con­strained by the com­po­si­tion of its mem­ber or­gan­i­sa­tions. Of the 28 ex­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions which cur­rently sub­scribe to it, just three are headed by women.

All in all, of the 34 peo­ple who sit on the JLC’s mem­ber­ship coun­cil and/or trustee board, only five are women. Two of them, De­bra Fox and Ruth Green, were co-opted as trustees from out­side rather than be­ing elected from the JLC’s own ranks.

In ad­di­tion, the coun­cil has nine vice-pres­i­dents who act as ad­vis­ers, two of whom are women — al­though the JLC says a new panel of VPs will be con­firmed later this month.

The dozen se­lected to visit David Cameron, the JLC ex­plained, were “the most rel­e­vant mem­bers of the JLC to present on the par­tic­u­lar is­sues we feel it is im­por­tant to raise”. But, on fur­ther anal­y­sis, is this an ad­e­quate re­sponse?

For ex­am­ple, one of the 12 was David Chinn, son of JLC vice-pres­i­dent and long-term com­mu­nal ac­tivist Sir Trevor Chinn. Chinn ju­nior heads Pog, which sounds like a char­ac­ter from a chil­dren’s car­toon, but stands for “political over­sight group”, a JLC com­mit­tee.

What­ever Mr Chinn’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties may be, he does not have a track record as head of a ma­jor com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion. He is a mem­ber nei­ther of the JLC’s coun­cil nor trustee body.

When it comes to political ex­pe­ri­ence, a more qual­i­fied rep­re­sen­ta­tive might have been Gil­lian Mer­ron, the Board of Deputies chief ex­ec­u­tive and a for­mer Labour min­is­ter. As it hap­pens, Ms Mer­ron is still listed on the JLC’s web­site as one of its two fe­male VPs.

Ac­cord­ing to the Board, she was will­ing to re­main as a VP but the JLC did not ac­cept her of­fer.

There is also a prece­dent for the JLC’s Down­ing Street del­e­ga­tion in­clud­ing peo­ple from out­side the JLC. Two years ago it took along Laura Marks, then the Board’s se­nior vice-pres­i­dent.

It is hard to un­der­stand why the United Syn­a­gogue and Move­ment for Re­form Ju­daism, for ex­am­ple, could not have been rep­re­sented this year by a fe­male trustee or board mem­ber of their or­gan­i­sa­tions rather than by their male heads.

The fu­ture? Women take part in the En­vi­sion ini­tia­tive to en­cour­age fe­male lead­ers

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