Claudia Mendoza: At a difficult time for our community, we had a positive story to tell Theresa May

Claudia Mendoza: At a difficult time for our community, we had a positive story to tell Theresa May

This article first appeared on the Jewish Chronicle on 6 November 2018.

Last week, the Jewish Leadership Council led a delegation of our members to meet the prime minister.

To be given any face time at such a fraught moment for the government is not something we take for granted and we used our one hour assiduously and covered many issues.

Our meeting took place in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh massacre and Theresa May reiterated her commitment to fighting antisemitism and ensuring the safety of the Jewish community.

But we also had a positive story to tell of the contribution of our community to society. It was great to be able to showcase two of our more recent members - Chai Cancer Care and Work Avenue.

These are two organisations who do tremendous work within the community and beyond, get no government funding, and have offered to share best practice with others. 

Chai’s Chair Louise Hager poignantly explained the cofounder’s vision for Chai when it was set it up in 1990. Since its inception, it was recognised that you can live a life with and beyond the impact of cancer - revolutionary at the time but now the mainstream approach to cancer care.

What’s unique about Chai is the recognition that each diagnosis has a ripple effect and support is extended to family members, friends and work colleagues, reflected by the fact that 40 per cent of their clients are the patients’ loved ones. The prime minister recently spoke of the loss of her goddaughter to cancer. This is clearly a personal issue to her.

Helping people to adjust to life post treatment can be very lonely and isolating and Chai’s work is second to none. Given the government’s focus on alleviating loneliness – which is not just a phenomenon affecting the elderly – this was just another example where communal organisations may be able to contribute to the national debate. We are pleased that as a result of our meeting, Number 10 has requested a ministerial visit to Chai.

Work Avenue, chaired by Mark Morris, works across all sections of the Jewish community and beyond. It helps people to support themselves financially through job placement or helping start and develop businesses. Work Avenue moves people from dependence to independence, thus removing reliance on state benefits.

By creating a community of symbiotic support for all, those who receive help today will be able to extend help tomorrow. Through discussions with Number 10 and the Department for Work and Pensions, we believe the Work Avenue model is one which can be replicated.

We don’t just go to the prime minister with our cap in our hand. We want to work with all levels of government to showcase the work of our community, of which we should all be immensely proud.

Claudia Mendoza is director of policy and public affairs of the Jewish Leadership Council