Q&A: Michele Vogel, WIZO President

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

We all benefit from our community. Volunteering for over 35 years is my way of giving something back. In particular, my fundraising work for WIZO projects in Israel enables me to combine volunteerism with Zionism. I feel strongly that by becoming involved and engaged in communal life one gains more than one puts in.

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

The Commission on Women in Leadership, which was instigated by the JLC earlier this year. There have been many attempts in the past to break down barriers preventing women in our community from being more fully involved in important decision making and taking on leadership roles. This timely Commission spearheaded by the JLC seeks to redress that balance that impacts over half of our community. We are very focused upon delivering a practical set of recommendations to the JLC and wider Jewish community. I am excited to be working with a dynamic and very committed group of women.

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

The community has become more polarised in terms of religious observance. The middle ground is much narrower than a generation ago. Cross-communal initiatives and organisations like Limmud, the JCC and the LJCC have to be applauded for bringing the community together in social and cultural ways. On the advocacy front the recent "We Believe in Israel" conference was a particularly inspirational show of community-wide unity. BICOM did a great job of bringing this to fruition. Its impact will be felt for some time. I was delighted to have been able to play a part in this JLC inspired initiative.

There is a much greater level of debate around Israel's policies than there was ten years ago. In terms of involvement the fact that many more women have returned to paid employment has had a huge impact on volunteering.

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

Antisemitism, especially institutional antisemitism, anti-Zionism, boycotts, particularly in the academic arena, difficulties for students on campus - all of these are serious and worrying challenges. I am pleased that through frameworks like the JLC the community is now able to address them in an effective and coordinated manner.

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

It has given me a deeper understanding of the tireless efforts of individuals and organisations working for the benefit of the whole community, often behind the scenes. It has enabled me to engage with heads of other major communal organisations, to understand and share concerns and also to offer a woman's viewpoint! I was also pleased to be a part of the planning of the JLC Communications Strategy currently being rolled out in order to deepen the relationship with all of the institutions represented on the JLC. It particularly highlights how the JLC complements the important work of the Board of Deputies. I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to participate in the long-term planning for the future of our community.