Stephen Bush cautiously optimistic about pivotal changes for racial inclusivity in Jewish community

The Board of Deputies’ Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community has completed its taking written and oral evidence from witnesses and organisations around the Jewish community and its Chair Stephen Bush is starting work on a report to be released early next year. Mr Bush  said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the process, having seen communal leaders’ willingness to “hear the challenges and consider some really pivotal changes”.

He was speaking after the Commission completed its stakeholder engagement phase, during which he has reached out to leaders from all denominations of the Jewish community, as well as other key communal institutions such as youth movements, social care organisations, educational bodies, cultural organisations, newspapers, regional representative councils, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust, and the leaders of the Board of Deputies itself.

This stakeholder engagement follows the evidence gathering phase which took place in July and August, during which oral and written testimonies from Black Jews, non-Black Jews of Colour and Mizrachi, Sephardi and Yemenite Jews were gathered following a public call-out to witnesses.

The stakeholder meetings – all conducted online due to Covid19 – have been an opportunity for the Commission’s Chair to share some emerging themes from the evidence gathered by the Commission, and to put forward some ideas of possible recommendations for discussion. Mr Bush has now held over 20 meetings and roundtables with senior figures in the community, including the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and other senior leaders of the United Synagogue, Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Interim Director of Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick, Convenor of the Reform Beit Din, Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi of the S+P Sephardi Community, and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism, and leaders from the Strictly Orthodox community.

The Commission Chair will now begin work on a report of its findings, including a series of recommendations, as well as setting out a suitable period for implementation after which to review progress. The report will be published by January 2021.

Stephen Bush said: “I have been truly heartened by how constructive our stakeholder meetings have been. Having put some really tough issues and testimonies on the table at all these meetings, their reactions have been incredibly open-minded and extremely positive. While the testimonies we’ve received make clear that there is a long way to go, I am cautiously optimistic that we can make some significant progress for racial inclusivity, having now seen how willing our communal leaders are to hear the challenges and consider some really pivotal changes.”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl, said: “The Board of Deputies is totally committed to making this Commission a success. Stephen has my full support in this important work as it moves into the next phase, and I applaud him for all the progress he has already made. Together with Stephen, I’m determined to ensure that all institutions of our community – including the Board of Deputies – become fully welcoming and inclusive of Black Jews, non-Black Jews of Colour and Mizrachi, Sephardi and Yemenite Jews.”



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