In the years leading up to the creation of the JLC, the infrastructure of the British Jewish community radically changed. From 1990 to 2000, Jewish charities went through a period of mergers, creating Jewish Care, UJIA, and Norwood-Ravenswood (now Norwood). Politically, the country changed as John Major’s Government was replaced by New Labour.
The start of the second intifada in 2000 brought Israel back into the international spotlight and triggered a wave of anti-Jewish sentiment, leading to the creation of BICOM and the increasing importance of CST‘s work. A massive increase in Jewish schools changed the primary way that many Jewish families affiliated with the wider Jewish community.
The Board of Deputies was created in 1760 as the official representative body of the Jewish community. Historically, though, individual Jewish leaders have always maintained their own relationships with the Government – a situation that has led to many tensions over the centuries.
In 2003, Henry Grunwald QC, the President of the Board of Deputies, was frustrated by what he saw as a lack of coordination between the Board and Jewish communal leaders, some of whom had strong personal relationships with the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Meetings with like-minded people – Sir Trevor Chinn, Gerald Ronson, Lord Levy and David Cohen – led to the creation of the Jewish Community Leadership Council to act as a coordinating body, following a similar structure to that of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. This process was facilitated and supported professionally by Douglas Krikler who became the first professional Director of the Council.
The new Council’s first significant event was a meeting at Downing Street with the Prime Minister – the first such meeting between the Jewish Community and Tony Blair since his election seven years earlier. These meetings became a regular fixture and an important point of contact between the PM of the day and Jewish leaders.
The Council, changing its name to to the shorter “Jewish Leadership Council”, continued to develop, hiring Jeremy Newmark as its Chief Executive. One of its first major pieces of work was to begin the shared purchasing scheme. Following the 2006 Lebanon War, the JLC worked with BICOM to review the Jewish Community’s preparedness for crises. The JLC also launched a Commission into the future of Jewish Schools and worked with the Board of Deputies to found the anti-boycott Fair Play Campaign Group. At this time, the JLC also welcomed new members onto the Council, and was a key organiser of the community-wide Salute to Israel parade celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary.
As the JLC continued developing, the work involved in running it increased. After Henry Grunwald’s term as Board of Deputies president ended, the JLC’s chairmanship was split – new Board President Vivian Wineman becoming Chair of the Council, while UJIA Chair Mick Davis became Chair of the JLC’s Trustees. Shortly afterwards, the JLC went though a thorough internal review and restructuring. The most important element of this new structure was the end of ad personam members, who had previously sat on the JLC as invididual leaders. These members voluntarily gave up their JLC seats, firmly establishing the Council as a body for the heads of Jewish organisations only.
During this period, the JLC ran the Schools Strategy Implementation Group to implement the findings of the Schools Commission, supported the New Leadership Network and took a leading role in the campaign to end the abuse of Universal Jurisdiction laws. It also published a major policy paper on the Big Society.
Recently, the JLC has been focusing on the future of the Jewish community. It established the Commission on Women in Jewish Leadership to address the underrepresentation of women in Jewish leadership roles, and has started LEAD as a home for Jewish leadership development. It has founded the Community Chest and is starting a project to track communal vitality. Shared purchasing now happens though the JLC Purchasing Club, which is also open to Jewish schools, and Partnerships for Jewish Schools launched as a permanent strategic agency on Jewish schooling. New JLC member organisations have added renewed energy and inspiration as the JLC looks to the future.