Your next big idea, please

The Bronf­man Foun­da­tion is hold­ing a con­test to find in­no­va­tions that will ‘trans­form the way the Jewish com­mu­nity thinks about it­self’. Here, five con­trib­u­tors of­fer their own ideas that would make a dif­fer­ence


En­cour­age Jews to move to the UK

“SO YOU’RE from France?” goes the ques­tion at Shab­bat ta­bles in Lon­don. “Let me guess: you work in fi­nance.” Lon­don is now the fourth-largest French-speak­ing city in the world, and Bri­tish Jewry has been af­fected too. But th­ese days the guests are as likely to come from Moscow, Mu­nich or Madrid as Manch­ester.

The push fac­tor of an­tisemitism and the pull fac­tor of eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity have re­sulted in thou­sands of Jews com­ing to the UK in re­cent years. A re­cent re­port from the In­sti­tute for Jewish Pol­icy Re­search showed that al­most one in five Jews in the UK was born else­where, with most com­ing from Is­rael, the United States and South Africa.

We should wel­come this trend. The Jewish pop­u­la­tion in Bri­tain has been in de­cline since the war. The new waves of im­mi­gra­tion can boost num­bers.

But the in­flux can also bring new vi­tal­ity, cre­ativ­ity and en­ergy to our com­mu­nity, if we know how to har­ness it. Jews from other coun­tries im­port ideas and cus­toms which can en­rich Bri­tish Jewish life. They are in­vari­ably high-skilled and welle­d­u­cated.

More broadly, the com­mu­nity lead­er­ship needs to think about our strat­egy to­wards mi­gra­tion. Just as Is­rael ad­ver­tises for peo­ple go­ing on aliyah, should Bri­tish Jewry cam­paign in­ter­na­tion­ally for new ar­rivals? Clearly the UK’s lo­ca­tion, econ­omy and rel­a­tively be­nign en­vi­ron­ment mean that we have all the in­gre­di­ents to con­tinue to at­tract Jews in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers.

The Catholic com­mu­nity, in­ci­den­tally, has been swollen by the in­flux of ad­her­ents from East­ern Europe, and might soon be­come the largest re­li­gious group in Bri­tain. Mi­gra­tion is not only chang­ing the face of Bri­tain, but also the in­ter­nal dy­nam­ics of its faith com­mu­ni­ties. Zaki Cooper is the di­rec­tor of Busi­ness for New Europe

Stop fo­cus­ing so­mu­chon the syn­a­gogue

THE MA­JOR­ITY of peo­ple who proudly iden­tify as Jews seem to have no time for syn­a­gogues. So the first thing is to in­vent more ways of be­ing Jewish with­out any com­pul­sion to en­ter syn­a­gogues, with­out “hav­ing” to do any­thing. The Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­tre for Lon­don en­cap­su­lates that think­ing — a por­tal to be­ing Jewish in any way you want, from sports to learn­ing, from hang­ing out to danc­ing. The same spirit is there in Lim­mud, in the ser­vices pro­vided by Jewish Care or by Friends of the He­brew Univer­sity. We need more of it, and more that seems like fun, or in­tel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing, or both — and that might re­new our syn­a­gogues too.

Se­condly, we need some­thing ev­ery­one can share but which is not la­belled re­li­gious. Mitz­vah Day, which the JCC runs in Lon­don (Novem­ber 18), is a good ex­am­ple — it has a clear so­cial pur­pose and ap­peals across the com­mu­nity. The idea of mitz­vah is re­li­gious, but it still at­tracts those for whom the term “re­li­gious” is a turnoff. We should learn from the large Jewish pres­ence at Make Poverty His­tory how strong is the Jewish de­sire for so­cial ac­tion. De­spite be­ing on Shab­bat and in Ed­in­burgh, Ortho­dox, Lib­eral and un­af­fil­i­ated came to­gether. So a com­mon pur­pose is es­sen­tial, and so­cial ac­tion might be the fo­cus.

The third thing is a new kind of Jewish por­tal. The JCC pro­vides a gate­way where peo­ple can come and taste. We need more like that, phys­i­cally and in the ether, so that the on­line gen­er­a­tion can find out what’s on, meet, and set up in­ter­est groups to­gether. Peo­ple don’t join or­gan­i­sa­tions any more. But they do cam­paign for sin­gle is­sues and fol­low their peer group. We need vir­tual cen­tres and on­line net­works to of­fer more to a gen­er­a­tion that has voted with its feet away from what the com­mu­nity has tra­di­tion­ally of­fered, but not to­tally given up on us yet. Baroness Neu­berger is pres­i­dent of Lib­eral Ju­daism

Run Bri­tish busi­nesses from Is­rael

IT IS a sad fact that all but the most ar­dent “would be” olim tend to re­main in the UK — sad for those who eke out a cloud­shrouded life in Eng­land whilst yearn­ing for a life un­der the Is­raeli sun; and a sad loss for the Is­raeli econ­omy.

The lure of “just an­other few thou­sand pounds” be­fore mak­ing the move is un­der­stand­able. As fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions out­strip in­come, the gap be­tween a UK mid­dle-class salary and the Is­raeli equiv­a­lent yawns ever wider. With im­per­fect He­brew, no lo­cal qual­i­fi­ca­tions and lit­tle pro­texia, even an Is­raeli “mid­dle class” in­come is a chimera. The older you get, the more im­pos­si­ble the tran­si­tion ap­pears. It need not be so. Af­ter 20-plus years in the UK, I started a UK law firm in Jerusalem two years ago, with a sin­gle em­ployee — my­self — and one ac­tive client. To­day, with some 70 clients in 12 coun­tries, the firm em­ploys some 10 olim, with sev­eral more on the way.

We of­fer le­gal ser­vices of City style and qual­ity, but at half the price. UK clients are pre­pared to swap prox­im­ity for price; Is­raelis are thrilled to find lo­cally a ser­vice for which they pre­vi­ously had to travel.

There is no rea­son why this pat­tern can­not be repli­cated by oth­ers. The par­a­digm is al­ready es­tab­lished: ra­di­ol­o­gists in cen­tral Is­rael pro­duce re­ports for US doc­tors; par­ale­gals in Modi’in pro­duce re­ports on ti­tle for US prop­erty law firms; in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment bankers work from Her­zliya; we pro­vide UK le­gal ser­vices from Jerusalem.

Is­rael can be­come an in­ter­na­tional hub for the pro­vi­sion of high-qual­ity pro­fes­sional ser­vices at un­beat­able prices. Tech­nol­ogy has low­ered the hur­dles and eroded the ex­cuses. It re­mains for the pro­fes­sion­als of An­gloJewry to screw their courage to the stick­ing point and to make the move. Trevor Asser­son is prin­ci­pal of Asser­son Law Of­fices, Jerusalem

Start treat­ing the re­gions as the fu­ture

TWO-THIRDS of the Jewish com­mu­nity lives in Greater Lon­don. Jews are flock­ing to Manch­ester, too, while re­gional com­mu­ni­ties die out. But a highly con­cen­trated com­mu­nity is not good for us.

First, there is the dan­ger of be­com­ing in­creas­ingly in­su­lar in re­gard to smaller com­mu­ni­ties and to the wider pop­u­la­tion. Hav­ing the most strongly iden­ti­fy­ing Jews con­tained in a few ar­eas also in­creases com­mu­nal po­lar­i­sa­tion.

On a prac­ti­cal level, it is in­creas­ingly hard to af­ford to live in the “Jewish” ar­eas of Lon­don and Manch­ester. And for fi­nal­ists like me, who are about to en­ter the job mar­ket, it is dif­fi­cult to be re­stricted to Lon­don. Many of my peers aren’t. The Cen­sus re­port showed in­creas­ing num­bers iden­ti­fy­ing as “eth­ni­cally” Jewish in far-flung ar­eas. Young pro­fes­sion­als find them­selves in cities with patchy Jewish sup­port, and are at risk of “drop­ping out”.

Our com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions must in­vest more in the re­gions. We must bol­ster ser­vices, pro­vide more op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties to net­work, in­clud­ing on­line, and em­power those on the mar­gins to run grass-roots pro­grammes.

We should also be ac­tively try­ing to at­tract peo­ple to smaller cities. We must ed­u­cate peo­ple about the Jewish op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able there — why is there no on­line na­tional guide? The main­stream com­mu­nity could learn from the US, where some small com­mu­ni­ties have of­fered fi­nan­cial and other in­cen­tives to those will­ing to join them, with much suc­cess.

There is no magic bul­let to An­gloJewry’s “big is­sues” — as­sim­i­la­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, mi­gra­tion. How­ever, see­ing pro­vin­cial Jewry as a source of fu­ture po­ten­tial, rather than a dy­ing breed, could prove use­ful in tack­ling them. Rachelle Aru­lanan­tham is a stu­dent at Cam­bridge and for­mer JC in­tern

Unite our lob­by­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions

THE WAY in which the com­mu­nity makes Is­rael’s case, and in­deed rep­re­sents its own in­ter­ests on the po­lit­i­cal stage, is the sub­ject of in­ces­sant de­bate.

I be­lieve that un­til such time as the dated three party “Friends of Is­rael” groups are dis­banded, and re­placed by one um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion that rep­re­sents all po­lit­i­cal colours and em­ploys an over­ar­ch­ing strat­egy, we are doomed to be in­ef­fec­tive.

As things stand, there are three groups: the Con­ser­va­tive, Labour and Lib­eral Demo­crat Friends of Is­rael. They ad­vo­cate on Is­rael’s be­half and are an im­por­tant link be­tween our politi­cians and our com­mu­nity. The Is­raeli em­bassy has links to all three or­gan­i­sa­tions, as does Bicom; how­ever, they es­sen­tially op­er­ate in iso­la­tion, set­ting their own agen­das and im­ple­ment­ing their own strate­gies. Im­por­tantly, they also an­swer to peo­ple with as much of an in­ter­est in fur­ther­ing their own party po­lit­i­cal for­tunes as those of Is­rael and of UK Jewry.

The sad re­al­ity is that much of the “Friends of Is­rael” groups’ work cen­tres around pro­tect­ing their own or­gan­i­sa­tional fief­doms. The em­pha­sis and ul­ti­mate ob­jec­tive of the group­ings are laud­able, but the or­gan­i­sa­tional pol­i­tics are counter to the wider ob­jec­tive of pro­mot­ing Is­rael and pro­tect­ing UK Jewry’s in­ter­ests.

All of us who are in­volved have honourable in­ten­tions and would like to cre­ate a pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment for Is­rael and An­glo-Jewry in the halls of power. How­ever, if the fo­cus was more on the ac­tual cause and the is­sues, rather than party po­lit­i­cal ad­vance­ment and em­pire-build­ing, Is­rael and in­deed UK Jewry’s case might be bet­ter served. With one set of ob­jec­tives, one agreed means of achiev­ing those ob­jec­tives and one way to mea­sure ef­fec­tive­ness, maybe this is one in­stance where less is ac­tu­ally more. Gavin Stol­lar is hon­orary vice-chair­man of the Lib­eral Demo­crat Friends of Is­rael

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