Monday, December 25, 2017

The Board of Deputies

The contemporary Jewish community of England began to form in the late 17th century, after a nearly 400 year ban on Jewish settlement. While the majority of the Jews who initially came to England at that time were Sephardim, it did not take long for a second community of Ashkenazim to form. The two groups of Jews were, in many respects, independent of each other. This duality came to an end after the ascension of George III to the British throne in 1760. After the Sephardim sent a delegation to pay homage to the new king, the delegation became a standing committee to deal with political issues. The Ashkenazim then set up their own separate committee. On the 7th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet that year, the two groups united to form the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

While the Board of Deputies met only intermittently during its first several decades, it received official recognition to represent British Jewry in the 1830s after it adopted a constitution. One of its first presidents was Sir Moses Montefiore, who held the position from 1838 until 1874.

Since its establishment, the Board of Deputies has acted as a watchdog and advocate not only for the Jews of the United Kingdom, but for Jews throughout the British Empire. It also serves as a lobbying commission for the protection of Jews in foreign countries. Although there have been numerous controversies throughout its existence, whether it was the initial reluctance to include new congregations or its changing stance on Zionism, the Board remains as an important voice of British Jewry today. It is populated by deputies elected from synagogues and other established community organizations. The Board of Deputies of British Jews also represents the Jews of the United Kingdom at the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress.


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