The former vice president of the Board of Deputies (BOD) has confirmed she is standing for president of the organisation in its upcoming election.
It’s the second run at the top job for Dr. Sheila Gewolb, who first stood against incumbent Marie van der Zyl in 2018.
The Deputy for Cardiff United synagogue with a PhD in Communications, Gewolb was first elected as a BOD vice president in 2015. After her failed presidential bid six years ago, she was elected as senior vice president before standing down in 2021 after her maximum two terms in post had been reached.
Dr Gewolb currently chairs the BOD’s outreach education working group and is Deputy Lieutanant of Greater London, with responsibility for the City of Westminster.
She told Jewish News that whilst it would “have been easy to take a back seat for the past three years, there was no way I was running away. The most important thing for me was to still remain engaged and active in what I passionately believe in and that’s outreach education. I’ve been working in that area for over 40 years, going into schools and talking to non Jewish children about what it means to be Jewish in the UK.”
She adds that she is running to “make the Board more effective, to help, defend and protect the Jewish community. What’s happening is that Jewish people are frightened to step out of their front door in case they are attacked for being Jewish. The Board is doing really great work with other organisations, but we need to address the root cause that the ordinary British person in the street doesn’t understand what it means to have Jewish culture, Jewish beliefs.
“We have 314 deputies. They are our secret weapon but they shouldn’t be so secret. We need to get out there and be proud to be able to walk the streets, hold our heads high and know that people understand how we live and what we believe.”
There are currently two other candidates for the BOD presidency: former BOD public affairs director Phil Rosenberg and BOD vice president Amanda Bowman. Jewish News understands a fourth candidate has yet to formally announce their bid.
Nominations for Deputy roles, which include three vice presidential posts and the position of treasurer, will open on February 15th, and close on March 7th. They must be nominated by 20 Deputies in order to be considered candidates.
The official hustings period starts on March 15th and will run until May 12th, the day the election will take place. The new President and Honorary Officers elect will be announced on May 12th.
Meanwhile, Jewish News also understands that the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) is proposing to end the Board’s special status and automatic position of a seat on its trustee body.
A spokesperson from the BOD told Jewish News: “This matter is currently under discussion between the two organisations. The Board of Deputies is focused on addressing the many existential issues facing the Jewish community such as the war in Israel and the rise in antisemitism here. We view this matter as an unnecessary distraction at a time when Jewish unity is of great importance. We fully appreciate that members of the Jewish community do not wish to see communal leadership engaging publicly in these types of disputes when far bigger issues should be demanding our energy.”
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