Board president on race report: ‘Still clearly much work to be done’

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Board president on race report: ‘Still clearly much work to be done’

Marie van der Zyl reflects on the testimony of Jews in the Board's commission, saying there are 'far too many instances of marginalisation and discrimination'.

Marie van der Zyl
Marie van der Zyl

The president of the Board of Deputies has described the testimony of Black Jews in Britain as “distressing” and said they had experienced “far too many instances of marginalisation and discrimination”.

Marie van der Zyl, whose organisation commissioned the major review into racial inclusivity in the British community, added that there was “still clearly much work to be done” before Britain’s Jewish community could be called an entirely “anti-racist environment”.

Following the publication of the commission’s report, it has become clear that one area of difficulty is the experience of non-white/Ashkenazi Jews “on the door” of venues, particularly relating to security checks. The commission has called on security organisations to “desist” from racial
profiling immediately.

The Community Security Trust (CST), the charity charged with defending the Jewish community, said it “actively discourages racial profiling in our training and work, because it is wrong on an operational, moral and legal basis”.

Reacting to the report, published this week, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “The exclusion of even a single person because of the colour of their skin is a collective failure for which we must all take responsibility.”

He added: “Where good practice exists, let us celebrate it and where failings are identified, let us be earnest and persistent, leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to resolve them.”

Eleven months after the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd stoked the Black Lives Matter movement, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) said this was “still at a pivotal moment in our understanding of and commitment to tackling racism”.

George Floyd (Credit: Twitter)

The charity added that the recommendations of the commission were both “positive and achievable”.

United Synagogue president Michael Goldstein said his organisation had “committed to learn how we can be more inclusive by listening to our members of colour and carefully reading the recommendations”.

Reform Judaism’s Rabbi Jackie Tabick said the review was “much needed” while Liberal Judaism’s Rabbi Charley Baginsky worried that such basics needed to be spelled out in the first place. 

“The fact that some seem to be so self-evident and yet need stating… troubles me greatly,” she said.

Senior Masorti Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg said he hoped that the report would be “a defining moment”, and Senior Sephardi Rabbi Joseph Dweck said it gave “a framework… to help ensure that our communities fully embrace Jews from all backgrounds, ethnicities and orientations”.


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