I was delighted to speak at a dinner meeting of Jewish teachers a few weeks ago. Together with my colleague Jon Benjamin of the Board of Deputies I have been engaging with the new leadership of the Jewish Teachers Association, spearheaded by the dynamic Flora Richards for the past year. They have been successful in pushing back against the growth of hostile sentiment within the NUT, however some of the stories we heard during that dinner, including the example of a young Jewish teacher whose lessons were boycotted by pupils during the recent Operation Pillar of Defence in Gaza was a chilling reminder of how the BDS movement continues to have an impact upon the lives of ordinary British Jews – regardless of any connection to Israel.
We recently hosted internationally renowned Jewish sociologist Steven M Cohen in London. He came to the UK to conduct a series of exploratory interviews in relation to the next phase of our Community Vitality Initiative. Steven met with key leaders, primarily from the Synagogue world, including the Chief Rabbi Designate and Movement Rabbi of the Movement for Reform Judaism. Sitting in on some of these encounters and reading Steven’s reports reminded me that there is so much vibrancy and vitality to celebrate across all sections of our community. It doesn’t often make the pages of the Jewish media, and in the coming months we will aim to feature some local examples in this e-newsletter.
Last month, during the course of other meetings with key partners in Israel I was delighted to participate in part of the annual mission of the UK Task Force on minority issues. The picture is far removed from being one of a national policy of institutionalised discrimination as some seek to assert. There is much to be positive about that we witnessed. It should also be a matter of pride that our community (as does the USA Jewish community) maintains a Task Force engaged with this range of issues. We had a particularly powerful encounter with the Kadi of Jerusalem – a moderate orthodox Muslim leader who is a product of the Israeli higher education system. This community-wide initiative led by Alice Wood and her small team is a fantastic way for UK Jewry
to show its commitment to the core principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
I am also pleased to report that our Commission on Youth Provision is now up and running. The terms of reference and other details can be found on our website here.
Wherever you will be celebrating, I wish you all a Chag Kasher V’Sameach.