Board of Deputies Community Briefing 26th September 2019 copy





Board of Deputies, DEFRA and leading etrog

importer strike deal to ‘save Sukkot’

The UK’s Jewish community will not suffer a Etrogfree

Sukkot (Festival of Tabernacles) this year, thanks

to coordination between the Board of Deputies, the

Department for the Environment, Food and Rural

Affairs (DEFRA), and leading etrog-importer Stephen


The first batch of etrogs for this year’s festival was

seized by Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)

officials at Manchester Airport several days ago due

to new, stricter requirements around the importing of

citrus fruits – like the etrog – with stalks on them.

Many Jews use the etrog (citron), which is waved

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said:

“The Board of Deputies has again made a timely

intervention which has potentially saved Sukkot. The

waving of the lulav (palm branch) and etrog with

hadas (myrtle) and arava (willow) is an essential and

iconic part of the festival and it was vital to ensure

the supply of etrogs for this year. I want to praise our

staff team, Stephen Colman and officials at DEFRA

and the APHA for their work on this.

“I would also call on the community to ensure that

they follow instructions about how they need to

dispose of etrogs after the festival and on suppliers

to ensure that etrogs are imported in full compliance

with palm branches, willow and myrtle leaves, to

fulfil the religious requirements of the festival – and

any shortage of the fruit would make it very difficult

to do so.

Working with DEFRA, APHA and the affected

importer, the Board of Deputies proposed that the

first batch of 600 etrogs be held at Manchester

Airport and taken to a Manchester synagogue,

where the fruits’ stalks could be trimmed to meet the

stricter rules.

Exporters who are not yet aware of the new

regulations will be able to send their fruit to a

location – usually a synagogue – provided the fruit is

destroyed after the festival.

Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State at the

Department for the Environment, Food and Rural

Affairs, said: “I would like to thank DEFRA and APHA

officials, etrog importers and our partners at the

Board of Deputies of British Jews for coming to this

pragmatic arrangement which will ensure that the

UK Jewish community can fully celebrate Sukkot

while ensuring that our precious plant health is

protected. We plan to stay in touch with the Board of

Deputies and importers as the season progresses to

ensure this runs and smoothly as possible and work

together to prevent any similar issues in future


with regulations in the years ahead.”

Leading etrog importer Stephen Colman, said: “You

can imagine my shock and concern when I was told

that my first consignment of etrogs had been held at

Manchester Airport with a view to their destruction

or deportation. Or my fear when I realised that this

could have implications for all 10,000 etrogs due for

import to the UK this year. This would have had a

serious impact on the ability of Jews to observe


“I cannot thank the Board of Deputies enough for

their swift and effective intervention with

Government, and DEFRA and the APHA for their

support and help in making this possible. I think it is

no exaggeration to say that we may just have ‘saved

Sukkot’. We hope that most or all of the etrogs will

now meet the import regulations, but I will be

working with my fellow importers to ensure our

customers understand what they need to do with the

etrogs after the festival to ensure compliance, and

working with our suppliers in Israel and elsewhere to

ensure we have no repeat of this in future years.”

Read the Jewish Telegraph story here.

Photo: Howard Gordon

Mayors and politicians attend packed events to hear

Israeli and Palestinian speak about their hopes for peace

Around 300 people at three events over the past week heard two peace activists – one Israeli and one

Palestinian – speak about their hopes for reconciliation.

Palestinian Ruba Huleihel and Israeli Michal Katoshevsky were speaking at ‘Invest in Peace’, a joint initiative

between the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, with the

endorsement of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, which invites Christians and Jews to support

Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding.

Both speakers talked about their family backgrounds, their childhoods in Israel / Palestine, and how they

each came to be peace activists. They answered questions from the audience about topics such as a twostate

solution, the history of the region, and education.

Ruba said: “When I lose hope that a solution will be found, I remember the people who inspire me, and that

gives me hope again.”

Michal said: “There is no way that I can lose hope – I want to live in a land where everybody has safety and


The events were attended by the Mayor of Southampton Peter Baillie, Alan Whitehead MP for

Southampton, the Mayor of Elmbridge, Mary Sheldon and Mayor of Bournemouth, Susan Phillips.

Board of Deputies Treasurer Stuart MacDonald said: “We’re proud to have initiated an Invest in Peace

programme which presents challenging dialogues to packed and highly engaged meetings across the

country. This is about helping to export peace and planting the seeds of reconciliation.”

The Revd Peter Colwell, Deputy General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, said: “With

so much violence, hatred and suspicion in the world, there is a critical need for different faith groups to

come together. Our message to extremists on all sides is simple: You will not divide us. This project delivers

that message loud and clear.”

The events took place at Kingston Liberal Synagogue, Avenue St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, and

Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation. Each event is jointly hosted by a church-synagogue partnership.

Left to right: Professor Tim Sluckin from Southampton Hebrew Congregation, Board of Deputies Treasurer

Stuart MacDonald, Peter Baillie MP, Ruba Huleihel, Michal Katoshevsky, Laurence Conneely from Solutions

Not Sides, Revd Sarah Hall, Avenue St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, Professor Claire Le Foll from the

Parks Institute, University of Southampton

Board of Deputies promotes Jewish social justice


Ahead of Rosh Hashanah, the Board of Deputies of British Jews has announced its support for the Jewish

Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) letter to the government on social justice issues. The letter makes six

key asks:

1. Allow asylum seekers the right to work

2. Reunite refugee families

3. Create a properly funded programme to resettle unaccompanied refugee

children and young people in the UK

4. Protect the Race Disparity Unit, which monitors the extent of racial

inequality in Britain

5. Provide funding for a permanent memorial to the victims of the transatlantic

slave trade

6. Make sure all political parties have clear and transparent procedures for

dealing with all forms of racism, including antisemitism, Islamophobia and

anti-black racism.

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said:“The Board of Deputies welcomes these calls to protect

refugees, commemorate the horrors of slavery, and eradicate racism from politics. The High Holyday period

is not only a time of reflection but also a time for considering how the Jewish community can work with

others to help create a society that celebrates diversity and challenges oppression.”

Members of the Jewish community can sign up to the letter here

Sixteen mentors have been accepted onto a Board of Deputies pilot scheme to provide Judaism education to

the wider community. The graduates of the scheme who have passed a rigorous application and screening

process were given their certificates in a ceremony at the Board of Deputies offices in London, attended by

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and Vice President Edwin Shuker. The mentors are all

volunteers who will be doing outreach work in their spare time. A further five presenters are currently going

through the training process. Photo: Gary Perlmutter



President Marie van der Zyl and Public Affairs Director Phil Rosenberg attended the Labour Party



Senior Vice President Sheila Gewolb wrote about her visit to Azerbaijan. You can read her Jewish News

piece here. Thanks to Cllr Murad Gassanly and to the UK Azerbaijani Embassy who facilitated the trip.

International Relations Officer Marius Bischoff attended the National Day of Brazil in Baku and met

Brazilian Ambassador Manuel Montenegro.

Senior Vice President Sheila Gewolb, Vice Chair of the International Division Ido Ben-Shaul and

International Relations Officer Marius Bischoff met Jewish Supreme Court judge Tatyana Goldman

Alexander at the Supreme Court in Baku.

Senior Vice President Sheila Gewolb, Vice Chair of the International Division Ido Ben-Shaul and

International Relations Officer Marius Bischoff met Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of

Azerbaijan Mahmud Mamedkuliev to discuss Azerbaijani-UK relations.

Senior Vice President Sheila Gewolb, Vice Chair of the International Division Ido Ben-Shaul and

International Relations Officer Marius Bischoff and Murad Gassanly met Hikmet Hajiyev, Head of the

Foreign Policy Affairs Department at the Presidential Administration in Baku.

Chief Executive Gillian Merron attended a reception hosted by US Deputy Ambassador Yael Lempert.

Chief Executive Gillian Merron discussed diaspora issues with the Presidential Commissioner for

Humanitarian Affairs and Overseas Cypriots Photis Photiou and President of the UK Cypriot Federation

Chris Karaolis. Gillian was welcomed to the High Commission by High Commissioner Andrea Kakkouris.

International Relations Officer Marius Bischoff attended the exhibition ‘Rhythmic Beats: Ivan Serpa and

his legacy’ at the Brazilian Embassy in London.


President Marie van der Zyl and Public Affairs Director Phil Rosenberg attended an event in Brighton

with a Q&A with Israel’s Ambassador Mark Regev, hosted by the Sussex Jewish Representative Council

and the Sussex Friends of Israel. Marie also addressed the community to share our solidarity over the anti-

Israel extremism and antisemitism that the local community has faced, but also to express her optimism

about the community’s dynamism.

President Marie van der Zyl and Public Affairs Director Phil Rosenberg attended the unveiling of a bust

at the National Portrait Gallery of Shoah survivor, Olympian, Deputy and national treasure Sir Ben Helfgott.

President Marie van der Zyl visited the historic Middle Street Synagogue in Brighton and was updated by

Vicky Bhogal about the work to preserve it.

Treasurer Stuart MacDonald represented the Board of Deputies at the 90th anniversary commemorative

service at the South London Liberal Synagogue.

Community Engagement Officer Lauren Keiles met Deputy Sally Patterson, the Board of Deputies

Equalities Officer to discuss her future plans around diversity within the Board.

Education and Youth Engagement Officer Jake Berger and Community Engagement Officer Lauren

Keiles met with the Movement Workers from LJY-Netzer and the team from FZY to discuss future work.

Chief Executive Gillian Merron spoke at Reshet’s annual gathering which this year focused on

“Recognition in the workplace”

Chief Executive Gillian Merron was the guest speaker at the Board of Deputies Shabbat at the New West

End Synagogue, organised by Deputy Dori Schmetterling.


The Board of Deputies’ Jewish Living Experience Exhibition was hosted at the Department for Education as

part of its Interfaith Network event about Rosh Hashanah. Education Development Manager Sara

Perlmutter and Education Policy and Youth Engagement Officer Jake Berger attended.

Senior Vice President Sheila Gewolb attended a meeting of the Cumbria Statutory Advisory Council for

Religious Education (SACRE) and participated in an Interfaith speed-dating session with 30 students aged

12-13. This resource has had positive feedback from teachers and pupils alike and will be a regular feature

to support and promote interfaith understanding.


Interfaith and Social Action Officer Anthony Silkoff took part in a meeting at City Hall with Deputy Mayor

of London Debbie Weekes-Bernard, African-Caribbean community leaders and others, to discuss proposals

for marking the transatlantic slave trade.


The Board of Deputies partnered with Stonehage Fleming to hold the inaugural Board of Deputies Business

Breakfast. It was hosted by Treasurer Stuart MacDonald, along with Chief Executive Gillian Merron and

Finance Director Brian Markeson.

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