#BoDelects: I’m a relentless advocate for our community

Over the past three years, the Board of Deputies has once again confirmed its role as the leading voice for UK Jews, outstanding in our defence of the community from attacks of anti-Semitism and threats to our way of life. I’m very proud to have been part of that team.

I’ve worked tirelessly as chair of the community and education division, travelling more than 50,000 miles attending events in regional communities, participating in interfaith forums and visiting schools.

I have expanded the Jewish Living Experience exhibition so there are now five copies based throughout the UK, and introduced training for volunteer ambassadors. These activities are crucial for combatting anti-Semitism and defending our Jewish way of life.

I chair the Board’s president’s dinner, which has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds, and have been instrumental in organising this year’s regional weekend in Gibraltar.

I applaud the Board’s hard work and commitment. However, there are areas where we can be more effective. Deputies are the Board’s life-blood, and their expertise is not being fully utilised. If elected, I’d ensure a definitive skills register was established as I’ve seen problems because of a lack of advice and guidance.

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Deputies are also critical to raising our profile in their constituencies. I’d create workshops to enable people to speak effectively about our work so we
can secure and grow support through the communal contribution. I have a proven track record of success with the ambassador training scheme.

Encouraging women and younger people to become Deputies is a persistent problem. We must find a way to retain the experience and knowledge of older Deputies while bringing in new people. I’d create a new role of Senior Deputy, whereby a long-standing Deputy could hand over the reins to another constituency member and give mentoring support. This would avoid the ‘cliff-edge’ termination of tenure, and acknowledge the standing of long service to the Board.

Sheila Gewolb, bottom row, meets with the Muslim Council of Wales

We must recognise the difficulties small communities face with dwindling numbers and fewer children attending Jewish schools. We must engage with those who require help and commit to addressing their concerns.

The most important task for the Board’s president is to defend and protect our community from anti-Semitic attacks and the deligitimisation of Israel. The Board needs a forceful, dynamic champion. I’ve already demonstrated my ability to lead discussions where anti-Semitism is an issue – I recently led a delegation from the South Wales Jewish community to meet with the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales (MCW) to resolve the issue of anti-Semitic comments on social media and resolved the situation. The offending material was removed, a full unreserved apology received, and an undertaking by the MCW to run an educational programme is to be instituted.

If elected, I’d be a relentless advocate for British Jewry, tenaciously protecting our religious practices of brit milah and shechita, and speaking out forcefully to defend Israel by challenging boycott, divestment and sanctions activity and anti-Zionist rhetoric.

About the Author
Dr Sheila Gewolb is vice-president, Board of Deputies of British Jews, and is running to be president at the forthcoming elections
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