Q & A: Michael Ziff, Chairman Maccabi GB

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

I want to be able to help people. I have been involved for many years in both Jewish and non-Jewish Community activities, including Maccabi GBUJIALeeds Jewish Housing AssociationLeeds University and the Lords Taverners. It is important to me that I give something back. I have felt very motivated by what I learnt many years ago by the work that involved our relationship with Israel. Chairing the UK’s leading Jewish sports charity combines my three passions: Judaism, Israel and Sport. Last year for very personal reasons, the Ziff family took part in the London Marathon to support both Teenage Cancer Trust and Nightingale. It was an immensely proud, emotional and uplifting event to be part of and seeing the crowds on the London streets cheering on so many was an experience I would not have wanted to miss. The 2012 Maccabi GB Community Fun Run also inspired me. Seeing the Chief Rabbi and Daniel Taub join with 1500 Jewish runners of all ages and abilities was a real highlight of my communal career.

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

Without doubt it has to be the 19th Maccabiah Games, also known as the ‘Jewish Olympics’. This year’s Games took place from 18th – 31st July and Maccabi GB were very well represented with a delegation of nearly 450 people competing against 9,000 Jewish athletes from 79 countries around the world. For me, my first ever Maccabiah Games was a life-changing experience and I feel it was important to focus all our efforts into making it a life-changing experience for all the athletes, managers, coaches and supporters.

3. How has the community changed in recent years from your perspective?

I feel there has been a shift in focus towards home-based Jewish projects in the past few years. At Maccabi GB we try and cater for both the link between Israel and the Jewish experience back here in the UK. It is something I am very proud to say that we offer, and will continue to expand upon.

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

One of the biggest challenges we face today as a community is having enough funds to deliver the myriad of services our community requires. I would say it is the biggest single issue today. Community organisations are beginning to consolidate and work together and this process needs to be accelerated before we see a demise in valuable community provision. With over 2000 Jewish charities registered in the UK for 280,000 Jews something has to give in the current economic situation. It is crucial in my opinion that all organisations take a long hard look at what they are providing to ensure that there is not a duplication of events and also resources.

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

Although we have only recently become a member of the JLC, the opportunity to sit with the leaders of other communal organisations can only help with a cross-fertilisation of ideas. This is a great benefit, not only to Maccabi GB, but to all of British Jewry. This is a great benefit in all areas, especially policy advice and support that it provided with respect to legislation such as the Equality Act 2010.