Simon Johnson: Executive Summary - February 2019

The January Blues


The early days of January are generally thought to be the most depressing of the whole year.  We go to work in the dark and come home from work in the dark. The days seem shorter and more bleak and the weather seems that little bit more gloomy and cold.

With the month of January so generally depressing, I have always thought it strange that it is the month when we try new programmes and initiatives.  Ever since I have started working, January has been the month to launch new initiatives and fresh new projects. It seems to be our way of escaping from the gloom.

At the JLC, in this month of January, it has been both a month of new and exciting initiatives, but also a month that has been drearily repetitive, as many of the same old issues have come back round.

Our new initiatives have been exciting, and have the potential to have a beneficial long term effect on the community.

On 22nd January, the JLC held the first major Residential Elderly Care Conference for the Jewish Community. 35 representatives from 20 Jewish residential care home providers came together at the NEC in Birmingham to discuss the future of Jewish residential elderly care in the UK. There were representatives of the Jewish homes in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and Birmingham from the areas that read the Jewish Telegraph.

The aim of the JLC’s Elderly Care Conference was to begin to find a way of resolving some of the issues they face so that our community’s elderly care provision is sustainable. This is the first time that such senior representatives from the Jewish elderly care sector have joined together to develop an outline plan for the sustainability of the sector.

There was an evident sense of openness and collaboration amongst the attendees.

The conference focused on how organisations working with elderly care provision in the Jewish community might join together to take collective action to address the challenges

It was an important step in an ongoing process of bringing our care homes together and working collaboratively to provide the innovative solutions necessary for our elderly care provision in the long term.  I aim now to take forward the conclusions from the Conference.

And, in January, five Wellbeing Practitioners stated work in the five Jewish pilot schools, with a brief to work on mental wellbeing within our schools. Their work will be monitored and coordinated. This is an exciting initiative.

But on the other hand, not much has changed. In fact, somethings have stayed the same and others have got worse.

On the Government and political front, it seems like the political system has ground to a halt. There is nothing else being done amongst Government, Parliament and Whitehall than Brexit. Very little else is going through Parliament. Meetings are being cancelled. Initiatives are being delayed. Decisions and responses are harder to come by. 

With no end to the Brexit stalemate in sight, it seems as though this state of stagnation will continue. And we should not think that, as soon as the current impasse is broken, the political system will open up and things can return to normal. I foresee this continuing for many months yet. Parliament and Government will either have to implement whatever deal is agreed, or legislate to implement No Deal, or prepare the ground for another Referendum. Of course, it is also likely that there will be an extension to Article 50, and we can expect the same level of paralysis.

The current political quagmire has also raised the possibility of a General Election being called. Even though we have gone through General Elections in 2015 and 2017, we still feel  that, as a charity whose activities are regulated, we need to prepare for a General Election. So, we will be holding Election planning meetings, looking at everything from how our activities are affected by Electoral Law, and what might be our response in the event of the myriad of potential outcomes of a General Election.

Some things though have not changed at all. In March of 2019 it will be exactly one year since the Enough is Enough rally in Parliament Square. Of course, with all the political focus on Brexit, the issue of Labour antisemitism rightly has a lower profile. But, we are preparing for when it would be appropriate to remind the public of this issue, and so ensuring that we understand exactly how Labour has, one year on, responded to the six requests that we made to them to remove antisemitism from within the party.

And in my former industry of sport, I remain mystified by the recurrence of utterly racist attacks on Israel and Israeli athletes. The latest culprit is the Government of Malaysia, which has banned Israeli athletes from participating in the World Paralympic Swimming Championships in the Summer of 2019. This is a qualifying event for the IPC Paralympic Games in Japan 2020, so banning athletes from participating has a devastating impact.

This type of baseless sporting discrimination keeps happening. It is now high time that International Sporting bodies clamped down on it. If a host refuses to allow any participants to compete for political reasons, then that host country should have the right to host that event stripped from them. Immediately. No questions asked. That is what the International Paralympic Committee did to Malaysia last weekend. They stripped them of the right to host the tournament. That is the type of firm and decisive action that all Governing Bodies must now take.

Is not often that I praise FIFA, but on this I must. Because it is a condition of the Hosting Agreement that all Bidders for the World Cup must sign when submitting their bid, that the Host must admit all players and fans and officials of all competing teams. Furthermore, they must undertake to fly the flag of all competing teams and play their anthem.

Oh, how we must wish that Israel qualifies for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. How I would love to see those Israel hating Qataris obliged to fly the Israeli Flag and play the Hatikvah in their stadiums before an Israel game.

So, as January passes to February, you can see that though much is new, depressingly, much has remained the same.