Dan Smith is one of the new breed of Deputies – in his 20s but already experienced enough in the political world to feel comfortable both in divisions and at plenaries.
Dan, who is Deputy for Liberal Judaism, may not have the experience of many of his colleagues but his day job is a political one – he is Parliamentary Assistant to North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson. And if that doesn’t give him sufficient credentials, he is also a borough councillor in Swindon, the town in which he was born and brought up.
He was persuaded to stand by the Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism. Dan explains: “I think Liberal Judaism looking for a little bit more youthful engagement. Obviously, the Board already has Under-35 observers but having someone on the board being able to advocate on behalf of younger people was seen as a great advantage.”
Rather than set out with a set of goals, Dan, who has been a Deputy since 2020, wanted to find out about the organisation he was joining. He says: “A great deal comes from just trying to listen, to appreciate what is being said. And I think for a while I’ve been somewhat cautious in speaking up. When I have done so it tends to only be on the things I feel confident in talking about – things where I can bring a youthful perspective.”
He adds; “I had to find myself quite quickly. You know, figuring if I wanted to stand for a division, and if so, which one? I followed my personal interests that ended up being the Finance and Organisation Division.”
As one of the small band of West Country Jews, Dan did not have a typical upbringing but to him it seemed completely normal. “If there was antisemitism around I didn’t experience it. In some ways Swindon is quite diverse. We had an airfield here during World War Two so we saw a lot of Polish troops and we had a barracks of Gurkhas just down the road. It was funny that I was seen as the expert on the Jewish point of view when in reality I may not have known that much about it.”
Dan feels his job dovetails nicely with his Board involvement. “Both my parents served in the public sector before branching out so I suppose I grew up with this sense of duty – a responsibility to get involved which is quite important to me. The skills I’ve gained in local politics have certainly stood me in good stead at plenary meetings.”
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