A second Board of Deputies’ vice-president is to fight for the organisation’s presidency in May, after listing anti-Semitism in the Labour Party as a meaning British Jewry “is at a critical point”.
Marie van der Zyl, an employment lawyer by training, says she has been a vocal critic both of the Labour Party’s efforts to crack down on anti-Semitism in the party, and of London coroner Mary Hassell’s “cab-rank rule” for releasing bodies for burial.
Launching her campaign for president, she said: “We are at a critical point. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, including, shamefully, in the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. Jewish traditions, from brit milah to shechita, are under threat. And for too many Jews, our representative body isn’t relevant.”
Van der Zyl, who completed the ‘game-changers’ leadership development course run by the Jewish Leadership Council, enters the race for presidency together with the Board’s other vice-president, Sheila Gewolb.
The Board’s popular senior vice-president, Richard Verber, and the organisation’s current president, Jonathan Arkush, have both ruled themselves out of the running.
A mother-of-two, Van der Zyl chairs the Board’s Defence and Interfaith Division, and cites a Jewish upbringing as a member of the Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade (JLGB) and B’nai Akiva, living in both Hillel houses as a law student in Liverpool.
She taught Cheder classes at Wanstead and Woodford United Synagogue where she once attended and has been a member of Mill Hill United for four years. She also attends and serves on the management board of West London Synagogue.
In 2015 she said she “encourages collaboration” with the Jewish Leadership, adding that “the Board needs to be more strategic, responsive to crises, lead with authority and leverage community expertise.”
She also said Honorary Officers, of which she has now been one for almost three years, must “avoid presenting a ‘fait accompli’ to the executive and major policy decisions should be discussed at plenary”.
Before being elected as a vice-president in 2015, she acted for many years for many Jewish organisations and charities as well as for the Catholic Church.
This week she said: “The next few years will be vital for our community. I look at my two daughters, and know we must do better.” She pledged to “fight anti-Semitism every day, defend Israel’s legitimacy and its centrality to Jewish identity, champion Jewish life across the UK and make the Board relevant to the Jewish community”.
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