Dancing on the beach … and dancing with the board

The lovely Jude Cohen posted on the Grassroots Jews facebook page today, asking the question:  Should Grassroots send a representative to…

the Board of Deputies. Richard Verber from UJS has posted this blog calling on more young people to put themselves forward to get involved in the deps.

The conversation is here on the Grassroots facebook page.

Selected excerpts here:

Jude posted:
Could or Should Grassroots Jews nominate a deputy? Answers on a comment..

David YS posted: Yes!

Gabriela posted:
Hmmm… I dont know…. Would it make a difference to anyone if grassroots has a “deputy”? isnt the beauty of grassroots that it works and gets on and does good stuff, and does not get tangled up in irrelevant politics of old jewish institutions?

Deborah B posted:
I think the point of what this movement is trying to say is these institutions have untapped potential and will continue to be stagnant and irrelevant unless people step up and commit to changing them. The point of having a voice or two from the grassroots community would surely to be a voice on behalf of those who do not subscribe to the idea that your Jewish identity is defined (or constrained) by the organisation you belong to.

Whether we think the model of the board is outdated or not, it speaks, and will continue to speak, on behalf of the community, a community which includes this community. That voice can either be representative, and a place where people can challenge and change, or it can continue to be ‘mainstream’ (read increasingly old and right wing) and exactly the opposite.

Gabriela posted:
Ok so another question. If grassroots nominated a “deputy” or whatever they’re called… Could that help make the jewish community a better place? Would it really … And how? ( you know that i shudder at the concept … But i am trying to keep an open mind). The verb has a point…. But it will only make a difference if there are LOTS of young people who think differently, on the board, talking MASS ACTION, not just a handful. It might just be tokenism. And isnt talented dynamic peoples energies and sundays better spent creating wonderful gr community ish stuff and all manner of projects that swirl around that… Than sitting in mega meetings discussing plenary sessions.. Or whatever it is that they do?

Naomi posted:
Why should we who are so obviously alive spend time dealing with those who are so obviously dying? What the GR communities do (especially in the UK) is quite radical, especially in terms of how we manage issues of power and leadership. We have a lot to teach and to share, but I think we do this best by carrying on doing what we do and thriving as we do. Eventually the established community, if it has any sense, will try to emulate us. But I find it hard to see what benefit there can be from trying to fit our radical genius into their outmoded and outdated systems. And call me bloody minded, but I’m not inclined to offer the BoD legitimacy. Also, btw, if we did elect a BoD rep, it would be the first time we elected anyone to anything, and my thinking on that is “*sigh* that’s how the rot begins”.

Gabriela posted:
I just feel that grassroots might loose its soul if it got involved with that kind of stuff. We (grassroots) have lots of learn … We are not the answer for everyone…by no means. I guess part of our soul of who we are as grassroots (tho others can totally disagree) is that we are so far away from what the BOD is all about and part of our essence is our rejection of that ( Tho our essense is also many positive things too!

Daniel V posted:
IIf GR *does* decide it wants a deputy,there’s no guarantee (constitutionally) of being allowed to have one. Contact martin.frey@bod.org.uk (he’s Administration Director) in the first instance, but a recommendation would need to be made by the Constitution Committee, and then voted on by the plenary. The leadership of the BoD will probably be sympathetic, given the desire to get more young and unaffiliated people involved, but some individual deputies may think otherwise. BTW I also fully understand Gaby’s and Naomi’s reluctance to be seen to be giving the BoD legitimacy which they might feel it does not deserve.

Joseph F posted:
Bottom line – before anyone reasonable gets involved with the Board of Deputies it needs to adopt a genuinely democratic system. It needs one member one vote. There would need to be a electoral register of (self-defined) Jews who wish to BoD (perhaps a new name might be in order) to represent them to the government, with each voter getting a direct vote. Anything else stinks of pre-great reform act parliament or bodies set up by autocrats to give the impression of democracy. If they did this, it would be worth getting involved, if not, you’re just giving credibility to a largely self appointed hierarchy which is past its sell by date.

Gabriela posted:
Re daniel’s advice “recommendation to the constitution commitee thrn voted by plenary” all that stuff TOTALLY puts me off even more….

Joanna C posted:
Why would we want anyone to represent us? What purpose would it serve? Who would benefit from this? Who is us?

Deborah B posted:
I think it’s a really interesting question that perhaps is the outcome of this conversation in terms of a response to what Jude asked, and it’s certainly one that I personally would like to hear the Board explain.

If the board is unable to articulate to a sizeable group of Jews that it seeks to represent why it should represent them, then we have our answer.Vehemently against representation for the sake of someone being able to call themselves a representative, because that is by definition more about the ego of the individual than the people they ‘represent’.It may well be that they do have an answer to give, and if they do, then maybe it wouldn’t hurt to hear it?

Brianne S posted:
Our strength and appeal is NOT being part of the ‘Jewish establishment’. Let’s keep it that way.

Naomi S posted:
And the questions for the BoD and the organisations currently involved in it would be why don’t they involve the young, the women and in particular the young women already involved with them? I wish Richard success – but my instinct is he will find himself having to overcome a great deal of paternalistic complacency within the BoD. I would be delighted to be proved wrong about this.

Jude C posted:
My idea when posting this was that in the spirit of our community’s “do-ocracy” Grassroots (the “organisation”) might be able to provide a conduit for an individual who has the desire to engage with The Board but is excluded from the pseudo-democratic process on account of not being a signed-up member of a traditional organisation. Which would of course be dependent on there being an individual who felt that way. In the same way as if 2 people decided to run a Grassroots Tikkun Leil the resulting Tikkun Leil would be created in alignment with the interests of the people who stepped up to do it and would provide for the needs of the people who decided to go. Same goes for anyone who goes and talks in a Limmud sessions about alternative communities – who are there because they volunteered and have something to say, not because they were elected and claim to represent everyone. Thus using our own anarchic (un)structure to infiltrate the establishment. Mwahaha.

Gabriela posted:
I think we need to do more dancing on beaches.

Naomi S posted:
Dancing on beaches, laughing in houses, smelling roses, feeding each other couscous, blind dates, dinners in the dark, praying in parks, crocheting michitzas, spray painting every thing, reading graphic novels, telling jokes, hugging everyone, making space for silence, acting out of love, ignoring fear, remaining curious, being us xxx

Joanna C posted:
That’s a bit like saying a small IT start up should let IBM buy them so that the can change the bureaucratic structure / culture…sorry, am more cynical than you and think we would need greater numbers, clout and financial donors (which is what synagogues are driven by) than a couple of minor representatives…why should we care who about the BoD anyway? It may sound selfish but I am not trying to change the world. I just want to ensure we can keep running things in the open way we have. Aligning ourselves with the BoD hardly seems like a move in that direction…

Naomi posted:

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