Q & A: Frank Baigel, Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region President

1. What motivates you to be involved in communal life?

I am motivated by two main aims, first of all to encourage younger people to take up responsible roles in our community leadership. Secondly, my work is driven by the fact that we must not allow creeping delegitimisation of Israel or of the Jewish people to become acceptable. Being pro-Palestinian should not automatically make you anti-Israel.

2. What is the most exciting project that you are currently involved in?

I have been active in Israel advocacy for many years and recognize the importance of the media. I recall being given a ¡ê15 radio with short wave for a Barmitzvah present. When I was off school sick for 6 months soon afterwards, I spent my time listening to Kol Yisrael radio as well as broadcast from places as diverse as Moscow, Ceylon, and Indonesia! This gave me a worldwide view of, and lifelong interest in, media activity as well as an appreciation of the importance of the perceptions prevalent in other parts of the world. In my recent engagement with interfaith work I have hosted an event for past and present officers of the council to pay tribute to a retiring Manchester bishop and was also present with fellow community members at the lighting of the Menorah outside Manchester Town Hall last week.

3. Tell us about some Manchester issues that have hit your desk

One of the responsibilities of the President is to respond to incidents as they arise. During my first day in office I heard of the threat to remove the Jewish Hour programme on BBC radio Manchester by the end of the year. After 6 months of campaigning the last programme was unfortunately broadcast this week but the producers are hoping to put out a similar programme early next year. The following week, I received a phone call from a freelance reporter asking for my comment on revellers dressing up as WW2 German soldiers at a war-time recreation event at The East Lancashire railway. I didn't know about this and had to think on my feet at this juncture. I am now having to learn the art of trying to be diplomatic which doesn't come easily to me. I like to call a spade a spade.

4. What are the biggest challenges facing the community today?

The need to develop a new generation of leaders and the problem of polarisation in the community. Our Representative Council includes delegates from Reform to Charedi. The recently released Census figures show an increase in the Manchester Jewish population which is almost exclusively due to an increase in the Charedi population, with whom we maintain close contact. Many of our younger people tend to leave for London or Israel but the numbers are maintained by the influx of younger Charedi families, making us the only Jewish community outside of London where there is a net gain in the Jewish population figures. We are looking forward to the establishment of the North Manchester eruv next September, brought about by group of community members.

5. How has the JLC added value to your work in the community?

The JLC provides a critical arena for strategic conversation on a national level. Every community differs in its profile and needs and we welcome the increased dialogue which assist us with local matters and allows the joined up conversation to develop in regards to institutions and projects in our own community.