Presidents’ Statement May 2018

We are amazed that two years have gone by since we took office as the first joint presidents of Glasgow Jewish Representative Council – and only the third time in the 104 year history that the organisation has been headed by women.

These first two years, we can truthfully say, have been a happy and enjoyable experience, if occasionally a bit stressful. Our different skills and experience complement one another and we have never had a disagreement on policy or strategy.

Two things have become very clear to us. Firstly the respect and good regard that is afforded to GJRC in both the Jewish and wider community is immense, and is testament to the achievements of the past Presidents and their teams. Secondly, the welcome and appreciation given when we represent the community in our official position is both inspiring and very humbling.

This year has been tinged with sadness for a number of our members following the untimely passing of close family.  In January we were greatly saddened at the sudden death of Council member, Martin Morris.   His contribution to our work will be greatly missed.  We wish all their families ‘long life.’

We value the experience and wisdom of colleagues who have given so much over many years to GJRC and the community; Treasurer Howard Singerman who has continued to manage our finances and ensure that we meet all regulatory requirements, Michael Clerck, who chairs our Education Action Group, Paul Morron our immediate past President, and who along with Paul Edlin are our delegates on the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Frank Angell stepped down this year to concentrate on other interests, but continues to represent the community on the East Renfrewshire Council, Education Committee. Other members who have joined us over last couple of years are Sammy Stein who leads our Israel-related work and Miriam Jackson who chairs our newly formed Alliance Forum.

The GJRC’s work is greatly enhanced by Orli Schechter, our Operations Director, who not only keeps the office running professionally and efficiently – but also keeps the Presidents in line, making sure we meet important deadlines and turn up at meetings on the correct day, armed with all the materials we require. In January, Orli’s role was extended and she is taking the lead on a number of projects, most significantly the development of a much needed, up-to-date, emergency plan.

When we took office, we had a number of ideas to modernise the GJRC and to continue and develop further the strategic plans which were set out by our predecessor. One of our top priorities was to bring on board new, younger people, with a fresh outlook on community matters, in order to revitalise the image and extend the reach of our work. We have been successful in welcoming Barry Berlow-Jackson, Isaac Ansell Forsyth, Raina Morris and Ziv Dotan along with Matat Jablon and Daniel Frank, who are recent arrivals, having come from the four corners of the globe with their families to live and work in Glasgow – and we are already benefitting from their input.

THE EDUCATION ACTION GROUP:  following the group’s work, together with East Renfrewshire Council, the School Chaplain and GJRC, the new joint faiths campus comprising Calderwood Lodge and St Clare’s Primary Schools, opened in Newton Mearns in August. There was a great deal of press attention for this imaginative project and reports to date indicate that it is a great success. The group worked with the Head Teacher, staff, pupils and School Chaplain to ensure that all the religious and Jewish educational requirements were in place.

The group has now turned its attention to other areas of need within the community and identified a void in Jewish education, particularly for teenagers. The group plans to build on existing facilities in the community by introducing a programme where Jewish children and young people can meet socially and learn together. The aim is to provide a focus with interesting and purposeful topics which will be fun and which will contribute to strengthening Jewish identity. Initially there will be four tutors and four age groups; 8 – 10yrs, 10 – 12yrs, 12 – 14yrs and 14 – 16yrs. The tutors will rotate around the groups, delivering their specific topic and will adapt the material to be age appropriate.   If this proves to be successful, it will enable the development of a more ambitious plan to set up a wider programme that can be extended across other interest and age groups, including adults, with the possibility of recruiting a professional young couple as educators. The project is not about making people more religious, but enabling them to build on existing learning from Calderwood, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and Youth Movements etc and be secure in their Jewish identity, able to contribute to the infrastructure and vibrancy of the Jewish community, as well as engage confidently with wider society.

THE ALLIANCE FORUM:  This working group was formed by the GJRC and is led by Miriam Jackson. It consists of a small steering group and also involves members of the community with experience in Health and Social Care. Miriam has secured a place, representing the Jewish Community, on the East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership community engagement group and plans are in hand for a meeting with the Chief Officer of the Integration Joint Board, Julie Murray and Social Work and Health Convenor, Councillor Caroline Bamforth. The Forum consists of all the organisations that provide care and support in the Jewish community from the large, official care providers to the small, informal voluntary groups. Meetings and discussions have focussed on the need to avoid duplication and identify gaps. The organisations are enthusiastic and committed to working closely together for the benefit of the community.  Plans are underway to hold a facilitated ‘mapping event’ from which an action plan will be formulated and it is hoped to launch this soon.

Any potential mergers or restructuring of organisations and possible redevelopment of buildings in the community will have a significant impact on the groups providing professional care and volunteer support. The Alliance Forum will work closely with everyone concerned to ensure that all the community’s needs are taken into consideration whilst supporting individuals and organisation to adapt and manage any changes that emerge.  The Local Authority budgets for the coming year have been fixed and are set to bring further pressure on both funding and delivery of care services. The various Health and Social Care Partnerships are bedding in and there are seismic shifts occurring across the sector. New ways of working will require our community organisations to be at the forefront of innovative practice, whilst being flexible and cost efficient.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND MARKETING:  Our new GJRC member Daniel Franks, who works in digital marketing, is heading this project.   The purpose is to modernise the look and functionality of our website and make it easier for people to get and disseminate information about what is happening in the community. This will be especially attractive for young people and professionals who are used to accessing information in this way. Attention will also be paid to those who use more traditional methods with an easily recognised ‘brand’ logo and style. Daniel will work closely with Sharon Mail, who provides our website and media support.

There are two main goals for this project; firstly to provide as much information as possible to as many people as possible about what is going on in Glasgow and surrounding areas, with increased interaction and involvement from people who might feel isolated or disconnected from the community; and secondly a longer term goal is for this to become a marketing platform to promote Glasgow as a great place to live and work with a vibrant and welcoming Jewish community. We have already seen an increase in individuals and young families choosing to move here and make Glasgow their home. Together with the many young people who have remained and others who have returned, they are vital to the continuing success of our community. By looking at their particular skills and adapting our organisations and ways of working to contemporary and forward-thinking models, we hope that they will engage in and help secure a community infrastructure to take us forward.

Daniel is full of ideas, including the possibility of bringing to fruition one of our original ideas to advertise job and volunteering opportunities along with services to enable older members of the community to offer mentoring and skills development to young people and those coming from abroad. Consideration is also being given the possibility of building on the advertising currently contained in the Year Book to offer pop up adverts which would provide greater exposure for advertisers and a potential source of income for the GJRC.

JEWISH LEADERSHIP COUNCIL, SCOTLAND REGIONAL MANAGER:  We welcome Danielle Bett, who took up her post at the end of February. This post was established by the JLC to enhance the professional infrastructure in Scotland and to support both the GJRC and SCoJeC in a number of areas, including our political and public affairs remits.

A joint management group has been set up with members from the GJRC and SCoJeC and an initial work plan and reporting mechanism agreed. Danielle has already spent time getting to know the organisations within the Glasgow community and has represented the GJRC at several events. She will be closely involved in a number of projects including Israel at 70 Yom Ha’atzmaut in April, The Leadership Shabbaton in Edinburgh in June, and support to welcome Israeli teams visiting in August for the Glasgow 2018 European Championships.

Danielle ‘hit the ground running’ and during March and April, with the ongoing problems around anti-Semitism and in particular the spotlight on the Labour Party, she worked closely with SCoJeC and ourselves, coordinating responses to the press, writing statements and keeping people informed of developments. We were impressed at her grasp of the issues and her professionalism and look forward to continuing to work together.

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY: Events took place during the full week and we were represented at all events in the local authorities throughout the West of Scotland. The Scottish National Event, hosted by Glasgow City Council at Caledonian University was centred around the slaughter of Jews at Rostov on Don. Rostov is twinned with Glasgow and is also the former home town of community members Lev and Julia Atlas. We pay tribute to Lev and Julia, who have dedicated themselves to highlighting these terrible events for many years and to Interfaith Scotland for their work to make this happen. It is planned to build on this and develop a closer relationship between the two Jewish communities.

ANTI-SEMITIC HATE CRIME: we continue to work closely with the Police, Crown Office, CST and the Scottish Government to communicate the terrible effect that anti-Semitism has on the health and wellbeing of individuals and on the community as a whole. Whilst the recent spotlight has been on the UK Labour Party, we have been saying for a number of years in Scotland that our concerns were around attitudes and rhetoric coming from the Far Left (irrespective of party allegiance) rather than the Far Right.

We welcomed approaches from the constituency Labour party in East Renfrewshire and the Labour group on Glasgow City Council who reached out and offered support. Along with support from individual MPs, MSPs and Councillors from the other main parties this goes some way to helping the community feel safe. We continue to highlight the way in which Israel has come to be demonised and used along with stereotypical tropes about Jews to cause fear and alarm by spreading anti-Semitic hatred. The Police and Crown Office have successfully pursued a number of cases which resulted in guilty convictions for a range of offences around transmission of anti-Semitic material and racially aggravated behaviour.

COMMUNITY FUTURES REPORT:  the GJRC has agreed that the time is right to revisit, revise and update the Community Futures Report, which was published in April 2013 and can be found, along with an executive summary, on the GJRC website

A professional, skilled in community engagement, along with interested volunteers, will be recruited to devise and carry out this exercise. A consultation will be devised to capture the views of as many people as possible, including those who might not normally get a say. The exercise will look at what has been achieved and will measure outcomes against the recommendations from the initial report.  The result will be a revised strategic plan for the community, looking at all aspects of Jewish life, including – but not limited to – informal education, health and social care, youth provision, religious requirements and social needs.

POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT: We continue to meet regularly with national and local politicians and with the administrations (and where appropriate the opposition groups) of the local authorities in the West of Scotland. As mentioned earlier, this work will be enhanced with the appointment of the JLC Scottish Manager.

We wish to thank all those who have contributed to and who support the work of the GJRC, by attending events, contributing to the various action groups, attending external meetings to represent the community, and generally contributing to the vibrancy and tenacity of the Community. Thanks also to all those individuals and organisations who have contributed towards the financial stability of the GJRC. Particular thanks to SCoJeC, the Glasgow Community Trust, the Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust, and the Queens Park Charitable Trust.

Nicola Livingston & Evy Yedd

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