Coming so soon after the major successes of the Chief Rabbi’s visit to the Scottish Parliament, and our LaG b’Omer Extravaganza in the Forest, as well as the glittering reception in Parliament to mark the launch of Judah Passow’s snapshot of Scotland’s Jews, and the 400th issue of MEMO, SCoJeC’s AGM was an opportunity to reflect on the successes of the past year.
After a light lunch, the AGM received reports from SCoJeC Chair Hilary Rifkind, Director Ephraim Borowski, and Outreach and Project Worker Fiona Frank, on the enormous amount of work that SCoJeC has again undertaken this year. Hilary commended the “mind-blowing” amount of work done by Ephraim and his team, and welcomed our new part-time Public Affairs Officer, Nicola Livingston, to the staff.
In his review of the past year, Ephraim reported that we have liaised with government and other relevant bodies on a wide range of issues that affect Jewish people across Scotland, including death registration, on which we have had significant success in reducing the risk of major delays to funerals caused by the new system of Medical Review; same sex marriage, on which we have been delighted to achieve outcomes satisfactory to the range of views in the community; antisemitism and hate crime in general; census issues; and others. This has included responding to formal consultations on several of these topics as well as the Assisted Suicide Bill, religious observance in schools, aspects of localism including policing, charity exemptions from water charges, and the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission, for all of which we represented the range of views in the Community.
We have also recently seen a major improvement in relations with the Church of Scotland, following their rejection of dialogue at the 2013 General Assembly, the topic that dominated our previous AGM, and have had meetings with both the previous and present Moderator, the Principal Clerk, and conveners and officials from the Church and Society Council, the Board of World Mission, and the Mission and Discipleship Council. We are now planning a joint conference on aspects of multi-faith Scotland, including our Being Jewish in Scotland report, and hope also to begin a separate dialogue with the Kirk’s new Theological Forum.
The evidence acquired by the Being Jewish in Scotland project has also enabled us to obtain funding from the Lottery, the Voluntary Action Fund, the Forestry Commission, and a number of communal charities, to enable us to continue to arrange successful and increasingly well-attended outreach events across Scotland, and support the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, the Edinburgh Jewish Dialogue Group, the Tayside and Fife Jewish Community, and University Jewish Chaplaincy with their own outreach activities. SCoJeC’s Director Ephraim Borowski emphasised that these are not merely social events; as envisaged by the original Scottish Government “Community Safety” grant, the events themselves help make Jewish people feel more secure and supported, and they are help SCoJeC keep its finger on the pulse of what matters to Jewish people in Scotland.
We have also continued to produce MEMO, our weekly digest of information of interest to minority ethnic communities in Scotland and daily digests of information in the media for UK Jewish organisations, as well as our quarterly newsletter Four Corners, and our increasingly popular website, which received almost 707 000 hits in 2013 (up from 557 400 in 2012). Ephraim also explained the benefits to the entire community from SCoJeC’s umbrella role in enabling individuals to work for any organisation in the community with a single “Scheme Record” under the Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme, sponsoring visa applications on behalf of Jewish communal organisations, and confirming the authenticity of proposed marriage officiants who are not synagogue rabbis for National Records of Scotland.
The Treasurer, Walter Hecht, reported that SCoJeC’s income had increased to £128k in 2013 from £112k in 2012, but much of this was attributable large grants from Creative Scotland for the photography project. Expenditure had also increased from £102k to £134k, with much of that being attributable to grants received in the previous year. The deficit on core activities charged to the Equality Fund and our own unrestricted funds was £8k, much of that due to increased activity and the employment of additional staff. This has already been mitigated in the current year by increased funding, notably from the Glasgow Jewish Community Trust and a number of communal organisations that have recognised the benefits they receive from SCoJeC’s activities; however both public bodies and the Community take our services for granted, and more needs to be done to address this. It was noted that our applications for public funding now show the value of the Director’s services as a donation in kind while he continues to act in an entirely voluntary capacity.
The AGM also briefly discussed the risks and opportunities for SCoJeC and the community arising from the forthcoming referendum on independence. Since all the Unionist parties were agreed there should be greater devolution, Ephraim said that relations with UK communal bodies would change no matter what the result, and with the likelihood of increasing devolution to other parts of the UK, including England, he suggested beginning discussions about a “Five Countries” model, including the Republic of Ireland, for communal representation and support.
Click here to read the AGM reports.
The new executive are: