UK Jewish group celebrates 250 years

British Board of Deputies kicks off milestone celebrations today

UK board of deputies (photo credit: Courtesy)
UK board of deputies
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Celebrating 250 years since it was founded, the Board of Deputies of British Jews is set to officially kick off its year-long anniversary celebratory program in the UK’s oldest synagogue on Sunday.
The representative organization of Anglo-Jewry will convene 400 former and current deputies, presidents and honorary officers, together with the leaders of all of the UK synagogue bodies in London on Sunday to celebrate the milestone – 250 years of representing, promoting and protecting the religious and civil liberties of Jewish people in Britain.
The special ceremony will take place at the Bevis Marks Synagogue, which is affiliated to the Spanish and Portuguese community and was built in 1679 in the city of London at the time the Board of Deputies was formed. In 1760, seven deputies were appointed by the elders of the Spanish and Portuguese congregations to form a standing committee to pay homage to George III on his accession to the throne; this was the genesis of the representative organization.
Today, the Board is comprised of deputies elected by all synagogues and communal organizations.
Each synagogue or institution elects one or more deputies, depending on its size, and elections take place every three years.
The deputies transact the business of the Board through divisions and work in conjunction with the honorary officers (president, vice-presidents and treasurer) and professional staff.
In what is slated to be a historic event on Sunday, representatives from every Jewish community around the country will salute the Board’s achievements and the contribution of the wider community to modern-day British society.
Renowned Jewish historian Raphael Langham has written a book titled 250 Years of Convention and Contention: A History of the Board of Deputies of British Jews 1760-2010 to commemorate the anniversary, and he will read excerpts from the book, which is scheduled to be formally launched at the House of Lords next month.
“This is a momentous occasion on which we begin both a year of reflection and celebration, offering us opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to protect and promote Jewish life in all its aspects, religious, cultural, welfare, educational and social, retaining our values of freedom and tolerance,” said Board president Vivian Wineman.
Other highlights of the Board’s 250th program include a conference of international scholars which will explore the history and contribution of British Jewry and the role of the Board has played; a gala dinner, a nationwide Board Shabbaton; a 12- grade high school debating competition, and various other crosscommunal and interfaith events.
Concurrently, a photographic exhibition focusing on the Board’s distinct cross-communal reach will make its way around the UK. The exhibition will also hope to highlight the fusion and diversity amongst British Jews and show how the Board’s work continues to underpin the fabric of British Jewish life in 2010.