Chair's Message: April 2013

It was a great privilege to have been able to engage with a cross-section of communal leaders, lay and professional, at the launch of ‘Leading in’, the latest initiative of Lead, our community’s dedicated leadership, education and training organisation. Lead was borne out of the work of UJIA and is now housed under the umbrella of the JLC and is there to serve all of our members and the community in this key area of capacity building. I encourage anyone in a communal leadership role to explore these sessions, which all include a leadership skills based module, an opportunity to network and a “masterclass” on a relevant theme.

I am delighted to welcome Maccabi GB to the growing ranks of JLC member organisations. The timing could not be more opportune as we have just launched our youth commission, and as the impact of new equalities laws on faith based provision, such as Jewish sports clubs, begins to become clearer. The steady growth of our membership base is testimony to the value that we are able to add to the work of our constituents.

A number of JLC members had the privilege to work with Margaret Thatcher during her tenure as Prime Minister. Some of them have reflected on those relationships later in this e-newsletter and elsewhere. What is clear is that since her era things have moved on in terms of how the community advocates for its interests. It is no longer simply the case that a good relationship between a few individuals and the PM is enough. Relationships must be institutionalised, civil servants and political advisors being a key part of the landscape. The policy community and local government matter just as much as Westminster and Whitehall. In this vein I want to thank Sir Trevor Chinn who has recently stood down as chair of our communal political oversight group, the arena in which much of
this work is coordinated and assessed. Trevor will continue as a Vice-President of the Council and on the Board of Trustees for the remainder of its term.

I was asked by BICOM to co-host with Stephen Grabiner a screening of the much talked about documentary, The Gatekeepers. It reflects the views of the last six heads of the Shin-Bet. It makes for difficult viewing as it canvasses much of the complexity of the Israel/Palestinian dynamic and the compromises and difficult decisions that face a country which is uniquely challenged by existential threats. The film does not propagate a political philosophy but it does make a political statement which has both supporters and detractors. However, it is an important documentary to watch because irrespective of whether one agrees or disagrees it is a statement that should be heard given the unique position of the people making it. And as difficult as it was to watch it for 90 minutes, I left at the end full of wonderment that in the Middle East such a debate is allowed to flourish. And then of course I realise that there is only one country in that region which has the democratic will and moral purpose to make that possible. And as a Jew and a member of Humanity I am so proud of Israel, The Nation State of the Jewish People.

In that vein I recently had the opportunity to meet with a group of enthusiastic Christian supporters of Israel (who will be joining us for the Closer to Israel at 65 parade on 2nd June). Their passion was infectious, as was their focus on the positive. As we celebrated Israel’s 65 anniversary in the UK it was a good moment to reflect on the breathtakingly positive achievements of the past 65 years. A truly democratic nation; absorption of refugees from oppression and immigrants from around the globe; a cultural hub of the Middle East; and a powerhouse of innovation and economic growth. Debate and conversation about Israel is a healthy feature of communal life – but at times we must also remember to focus on the positive achievements of the Jewish nation state. Closer to Israel on 2nd June will be another occasion to do just that.