Why the JLC own goal was so easy to avoid
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