Q & A: Stephen Pack, United Synagogue President

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

The United Synagogue is a unique organisation which offers authentic, inclusive, modern Judaism to a large section of the Jewish community. There is nothing else quite like it in the world and it is a great privilege to do something positive to help people along their own religious journey. That is why  I decided to stand as President when several people asked me to do so and I thought I could make a difference. My motivation is to leave the organisation in a better place than it was when I took over.

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

The young leaders initiative - which aims to get many more young people involved in running the United Synagogue. If we succeed in this, it will secure the future for the next generation.

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

The demographics have changed a great deal with more singles and older people in the community and increasing polarisation. It is no longer a given that most young people will get married and join a Shul. With increased longevity we are also fortunate to have many older members to care for.

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

For the US, involving younger members is probably the biggest challenge.

For the community as a whole, living in the UK has many benefits and has historically been a very tolerant society. However there are increasing pressures on the Jewish community coming from a vociferous group who are opposed to Israel, reject our multi-cultural society and challenge our right to practice shechita and brit mila. It is important to galvanise the grass roots membership of all Jewish organisations so they feel able to speak up about these unwelcome developments. The biggest weapon our opponents have is the apathy of our own community.

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

For the last three years I sat on the SSIG (now known as PaJeS, a JLC subcommittee dealing with Jewish schools) which has launched some interesting and challenging initiatives from a cross communal perspective.  I think the power of the JLC is the ability to get things done rather than simply talk about them. There is a very important connection between the JLC and the Board of Deputies and it is important that the two organisations work in tandem.