Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
 
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

SCoJeC AGM:
Another successful year, with reservations

 
12 June 2017

The main message of SCoJeC's AGM was the incredible amount we achieve with very little resources, in all the four strands of our work:

Representing the Community to the Scottish Government, politicians, the public and voluntary sector, and other communities.

Advancing Public Understanding of Judaism and the Jewish Community – providing formal and informal education; maintaining our much commended website as a key source of information; and responding to general enquiries.

Community Development – providing a support network for the smaller Jewish communities and potentially vulnerable Jewish people; publishing Four Corners; arranging events throughout Scotland; working with Jewish Student Chaplaincy; and helping people to stand up to antisemitic hate crime.

Community Empowerment – keeping communities informed by publishing Political Affairs Digest and MEMO, digests of current information for the Jewish Community and other minority communities respectively; alerting national and local communal organisations; and assisting Scottish communal organisations to comply with Child Protection and Immigration regulations.

SCoJeC AGM 2017

Before the formal business, the meeting heard from the newly appointed Deputy Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Johnny Gwynne, whose responsibilities include public protection and criminal justice, as well as major and organised crime and counter terrorism. After speaking about his own background in Northern Ireland, DCC Gwynne described how the police responded to recent terrorist incidents, including enhanced protection for the General Election and the Scotland-England match. They are also addressing new priorities such as cybercrime, and much of the discussion focused on this theme, and on the importance of explaining the significance of aspects of an incident that might seem innocuous to police and prosecutors, since they may not be aware of the allusions or the context. DCC Gwynne also said that around 80% of calls to the police have nothing to do with crime, so they are Introducing new systems to prioritise need, and are working jointly with ambulance and mental health services to ensure that callers get the service they require, and that this could include flagging vulnerable individuals and locations. He concluded by saying that he hoped he had been able to reassure the Community of the support of the police.

Much of the meeting was concerned with some of the pressures that the Community and SCoJeC itself has been under. SCoJeC Chair Micheline Brannan said she was concerned about the attitude of many politicians, which was exacerbated by the General Election, and saw analogies between the attitudes of some leading SNP members and Corbyn's blindness to antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism; for example, the First Minister's public rebuke to the Israeli Ambassador could be interpreted as at least tacit support for the very intimidating demonstration outside the Parliament. The immoderate rhetoric of some senior Church of Scotland figures during the General Assembly made matters worse, and had threatened our warming relationship, although SCoJeC's view was that this made dialogue all the more urgent. Although the First Minister had said clearly that "There is nothing that happens in Israel or Palestine that can be justification for antisemitism or any racial or religious hatred", it was often the case that people will not listen unless we first declare our attitude to Israel. Danielle Bett, who represents Israelis in Scotland, commented that this is a colonialist way of treating minorities, and that, whether or not it is antisemitic, it is clearly racist.

SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski reiterated some of these anxieties and said he was concerned that the unprecedented sense of alienation and vulnerability that we reported in our 2015 report on What's Changed about Being Jewish in Scotland has not subsided, that official silence contributed to this, and that because we have to devote so much of our limited resources to dealing with this, we are less able to respond to the many other aspects of public policy that have the capacity to affect Jewish life in Scotland. He said that the Church of Scotland is prone to talking about "speaking truth to power", but in Scotland they are the power, and they – along with the Scottish Government, the STUC, and others – need to hear the truth of the effect of what they say on a small and vulnerable community.

The meeting joined Micheline and Ephraim in thanking all SCoJeC's staff and volunteers for all their very hard work, which had enabled us to reach ever more isolated people throughout Scotland, and the communal trusts, especially the Netherlee and Clarkston Trust, the Glasgow Jewish Community Trust, and the Pears Foundation, who had made all this possible. However there was concern that we are victims of our own success – funders ask why they should increase support when we achieve so much already, but Nicola Livingston, joint President of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, pointed out that that overlooks the work that is done gratis, particularly by the Director.

The following office-bearers were elected by the AGM:

 

Chair:

Micheline Brannan

 

Vice-Chair:

Fiona Brodie

 

Secretary:

Simon Dover

and the meeting was followed by a brief discussion led by Maureen Sier, Director of Interfaith Scotland, about priorities for interfaith activities.

Click here to read the AGM reports and annual accounts.

 

   
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