Saturday, 12 January 2013

And so the Oxfam-BOD Partnership debate continues...

A busy week for the Board of Deputies (BOD) in relation to the proposed partnership between the Board and Oxfam to train up 25 'local heroes' to establish social action projects to tackle world hunger.

A motion has been put to the Deputies calling for the Tatzmiach GROW project to be put on hold and this is due to be discussed at the meeting on 20th January.  The United Synagogue has asked all Synagogue Boards of Management to discuss this so that their Deputies can represent them fully at the meeting - and The Hampstead Board meets on 14th January to do just that.

Now we know that we can't believe everything we read in the press and the Jewish press has had lots of reports, quotes and speculation about the project this week.  Some of the reporting is accurate, and according to the BOD, some of it is not. For example, the printed copy of the Jewish Chronicle was 'completely inaccurate' according to the BOD President Vivian Wineman, while the online version still includes inaccuracies because Oxfam were never asked to sign any document clarifying their assurances and conditions for the partnership.  Indeed, the document that was simply shared with Oxfam as a courtesy confirmed the NGO's assurances and the BOD's 'red lines' for the partnership: that the Board will discontinue involvement if Oxfam GB: 

  1. Supports a boycott of any type of Israeli goods
  2. Partners with or supports any organisation that promotes of condones violence
  3. Partners with or supports any organisation that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel

The Board is proposing that in order to rigorously monitor the project, they will: 

  1. Create an oversight committee to monitor the project
  2. Ask the committee to reassess the project and the relationship with Oxfam GB after four months and at the end of the programme (at six months)
  3. Ask the committee to submit an informal report of its findings to the Executive after four months and a formal report to the entire Board at the end of project.
Jerry Lewis was invited to attend the meeting and was quoted in the London Jewish News to say that leaders were "misguided" in pursuing the joint initiative, which he argued would "in affect give a hechsher to an organisation which will relish a seal of approval from the community. It will give succour to others who are avowedly anti-Israel".  Ask Jerry for more details of the meeting...

On the other hand, Henry Grunwald, ex President of the BOD, ex Honorary Officer at Hampstead Synagogue, and President of World Jewish Relief said "I think it's absolutely right that the Board seeks to engage with Oxfam and other NGOs."

Marcus Dysch has blogged that he believes that the row is completely unnecessary but this in itself has elicited much argument and comment and he has also reported at length about the 'secret' meeting held between the Board and Oxfam.

Want to know more, or tell us what you think?  Please do contact me or Jerry Lewis. Jerry as you know used to Chair the Community Division of the BOD and I'm part of the BODSA (Social Action Group).

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