Time the old guard made way for the next gen­er­a­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

IT WAS an in­spi­ra­tional speech and it fell on ea­ger ears. When Sir Mick Davis ad­dressed par­tic­i­pants grad­u­at­ing from the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil’s Gamechang­ers pro­gramme in Oc­to­ber 2015, he ex­plained the im­por­tance to Bri­tish Jewry of iden­ti­fy­ing fu­ture lead­ers of the com­mu­nity.

The au­di­ence of po­ten­tial chief ex­ec­u­tives, chairs and trus­tees, aged in their thir­ties and for­ties and from across the re­li­gious spec­trum, were urged to seize lead­er­ship roles, to wres­tle them from the old guard who have led the com­mu­nity’s or­gan­i­sa­tions for the past 40 years.

In­deed, the “Gamechang­ers” had just com­pleted months of project work and train­ing aimed at set­ting them on the path to be­come the next Ger­ald Ron­son, Sir Trevor Chinn and Sir Mick Davis.

But what strikes you most about those names? Yes, they are three hugely suc­cess­ful busi­ness­men and phi­lan­thropists. But they are also three grey­haired, multi-mil­lion­aire men aged 77, 81 and 59 re­spec­tively.

Ex­pe­ri­ence, wealth, im­pact — a tri­umvi­rate of qual­i­ties that help to make them ef­fec­tive lead­ers, as adept at push­ing prime min­is­ters into con­sid­er­ing the com­mu­nity’s con­cerns as they are at en­cour­ag­ing fel­low ma­jor donors to part with their money and fund huge projects that would other­wise never move be­yond con­cep­tion.

Now, 18 months after that speech, as Sir Mick pre­pares to leave his role as JLC chair­man, he has again re­peated his con­cerns. In his vale­dic­tory let­ter to mem­bers he noted: “We can­not sus­tain our strate­gic ad­van­tage un­less new, in­spir­ing and com­pe­tent fu­ture lead­ers are will­ing and able to take the helm.”

No one would sug­gest a revo­lu­tion could be en­acted in un­der two years, but this theme has been re­vis­ited for decades.

Jonathan Gold­stein, the front-run­ner who is al­most guar­an­teed to be Sir Mick’s suc­ces­sor, has an im­pec­ca­ble CV. He has ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing a key fig­ure at some of the coun­try’s largest firms, in­clud­ing Heron, Saatchi and Ol­swang. And, at 50, he is, ad­mit­tedly, younger than the afore­men­tioned big beasts.

His likely pro­mo­tion high­lights the com­mu­nity’s dilemma, how­ever. Par­tic­i­pants in the Gamechang­ers scheme to de­velop young lead­ers

As Mr Ron­son’s pro­tégé, he can be ex­pected to have learned the ropes and gained ex­pe­ri­ence that will, hope­fully, ben­e­fit An­glo-Jewry.

But how can these roles be opened up to those who are not part of that in­ner cir­cle? How can oth­ers gain the knowl­edge and ex­per­tise needed to run our in­sti­tu­tions un­less they are backed by the rich men who, in the case of the JLC at least, set up the or­gan­i­sa­tion? Ir­re­spec­tive of their

qual­i­ties, the 16 Gamechang­ers par­tic­i­pants would not cur­rently get a look in for such a role.

As­sum­ing Mr Gold­stein will serve as JLC chair for eight or so years, there is lit­tle prospect of a fresh face find­ing an op­por­tu­nity to take the com­mu­nity for­ward be­fore 2025.

Sir Mick says we need “in­spir­ing and com­pe­tent” peo­ple who are “will­ing and able”. Such in­di­vid­u­als ex­ist, and they have im­pres­sive ac­com­plish­ments. Take Richard Ver­ber, a lead­ing fig­ure at World Jewish Re­lief and al­ready a Board of Deputies vi­cepres­i­dent. Or Danny Stone, at the All­Party Par­lia­men­tary Group Against An­tisemitism, whose work has been recog­nised with an MBE. What about Lu­ciana Berger, Bri­tain’s youngest Jewish MP, who has been in the Com­mons for seven years and can ex­pect to find her­self in the cab­i­net should Labour ever find a way back into power?

All three are in their thir­ties, with proven track-records cou­pled with ob­vi­ous lead­er­ship qual­i­ties. But how long would they have to wait if they sought op­por­tu­ni­ties to lead, or be­come the fig­ure­head of, ma­jor com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions? How long would they be will­ing to wait?

Some will ar­gue the prob­lem is in­her­ent in the JLC’s rai­son d’etre. They will call it an old boys’ club put to­gether by those with money to en­sure they have a seat round the ta­ble with the great and the good. Oth­ers will quite rightly say women are un­der-rep­re­sented in these roles. Both are valid ar­gu­ments for another day.

But a time is com­ing when the old guard will no longer be around. Surely it is es­sen­tial to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to give ca­pa­ble, younger fig­ures bet­ter chances sooner rather than later.

Leave them to wait for another decade and we risk los­ing an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of po­ten­tial fu­ture lead­ers.

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