Photo via Livingwittily
Europe has an age-old elephant in the room, and that elephant is anti-Semitism.
Sure, it’s not a new issue, but its looming presence has dominated European cities this past summer in a way unseen these past 70 years.
Let’s take a moment to process the enormity of the issue: the year 2014 has seen Jews physically attacked throughout the EU, thousands marching the streets yelling “Jews to the gas,” and the massacre at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
Quite understandably, this has had a powerful effect on the way Jewish people see their place in Europe. But the issues that arose were not only the actions of aggressors. The response of Jewish leadership was far too often too little, too late.
Particularly within the UK, where the Board of Deputies of British Jews(BoD) was strongly criticized for their lack of action.
If UK Jews are to continue living in this dangerous climate, they urgently need new leadership. This isn’t a question, it’s a priority. They deserve to be represented by leaders that actively support their best interests, and do not use their positions in Jewish organizations only for their own political gain.
So I’d like to ask the question that seems to me to be most imperative: who should be considered as future leaders for the Board of Deputies of British Jews?
A great example to begin with would be Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Rabbi Sacks stands out as a strong and dedicated Jewish leader whose open-mindedness to diversity secured him a strong presence in UK media.
Rabbi Sacks has been lauded as a “religious leader who has succeeded like no other rabbi before him in crafting a message palatable to much wider audiences than his congregation, and transcending the confines of the Jewish community.”
This sound like exactly the type of leader UK Jews are in need of- someone diplomatic, accessible to a wide set of communities and influencers.
Sacks served the UK Jewish community for 22 years. UK Jews stand as one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. They have endured a sharp rise in anti-Semitism comparable only to that of France. Their future leadership must have experience within anti-Semitic environments, and a strong commitment towards resilient diplomacy.
The fact of the matter is that the current leaders of the BoD does not fit this bill, and have not acted to extend a diplomatic hand to the UK government in the face of virulent anti-Semitism. That’s a serious problem.
In a time of necessity, these “soft” leaders cannot be disregarded. It’s time to search out the kind of leadership people need and deserve. It’s time to pressure the BoD to step up and work for their community, to rise to action or be replaced. There’s a great deal of potential within various UK communities, and the time has come to turn that potential into reality.