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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)

 

SCoJeC meeting on racial inclusivity
in the Jewish community

 

28 June 2020

Click here to watch the discussion with Stephen Bush
 

SCoJeC AGM 2020

SCoJeC was delighted to welcome Stephen Bush, who was recently appointed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews to chair its new Commission on Racial Inclusivity within the Jewish Community, as the guest speaker at our virtual AGM.

Stephen was introduced by SCoJeC’s Chair, Micheline Brannan, who described him as an accomplished journalist, who, at only 30, is the political editor of the New Statesman and also writes for both the Guardian and the Financial Times. He is of black and Jewish heritage, and said that, despite some initial nervousness, he accepted the Board’s invitation because of the importance of the issues, and the delicacy and sensitivity with which the Board of Deputies has handled them. He explained that not only is the Board the only faith representative body that has reacted to the outrage of George Floyd's murder in this way, but the UK Jewish community is the only faith community world-wide that has responded by setting up such an inquiry. He acknowledged that the Black Lives Matter movement is led by self-appointed and unrepresentative individuals who are not sympathetic to the Jewish community, so it would have been easy for the Jewish community to turn its back on the whole movement, but, on the contrary, the Board has had the courage to hold the mirror up to the community and ask what we can do better. 

SCoJeC AGM 2020

Mr Bush said that he has been given 6 months to report, but will not walk away after this time because his recommendations will, so far as possible, focus on what the Jewish community can itself do differently, and he intends to revisit them at regular intervals to check on implementation. The first phase of the inquiry is to consult as widely as possible within the Jewish community, looking for people who have been affected by discrimination and hearing what they have to say. Anyone who would like to speak to the Commission about how they have been affected should contact him via Anthony Silkoff at the Board of Deputies: anthony.silkoff@bod.org.uk

In a lively discussion session moderated by SCoJeC’s Projects and Outreach Manager – and zoom maestro – Fiona Frank, people spoke movingly about their own experiences of discrimination, rejection, and stereotyping. Ideas started to flow, including changing images of Jewish people in publicity material in order to show the full diversity of the community, improving education about the diversity of the Jewish people, and ensuring that anyone doing security duty at a Jewish venue – shops as much as synagogues – has received training about the diversity of the people they may encounter. 

Micheline thanked Stephen Bush for his participation and encouraged everyone affected, or who knows someone affected, to contact the Commission, and make their voices heard.

SCoJeC AGM 2020

SCoJeC’s AGM then followed. Micheline told the meeting that she had very much enjoyed her four years as Chair of SCoJeC, and had taken particular delight in the remarks of the Scottish Parliament's Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP at our 20th anniversary meeting last year, which compared SCoJeC’s reputation for “common sense, balance, … authority, and accuracy” with that of the Law Society! Before demitting office, she expressed her thanks to everyone who has contributed to the success of SCoJeC, in particular the leaders of the individual communities, whom she had got to know better through fortnightly online 'lockdown meetings', as well as the staff, Executive and Council, Danielle Bett, the JLC Scotland Manager, and all the volunteers who contribute to the success of our events and educational programmes.

SCoJeC AGM 2020

Treasurer Philip Mendelsohn then presented our formal Annual Report and Accounts, which show that SCoJeC came very close to breaking even in the last financial year. Director Ephraim Borowski outlined some of the key accomplishments of the past year, and thanked all the staff for their commitment and accomplishments. He wished Projects and Outreach Manager Fiona Frank well in her forthcoming retirement, and thanked her for all she has done for SCoJeC and Jewish people in Scotland during the past nine years. Fiona spoke about how she had originally been recruited to carry out the Being Jewish in Scotland research, but this had rapidly expanded into other projects: connecting remote and isolated Jewish people throughout Scotland, providing IT training, and connecting Israelis living in Scotland with one another and with the wider Jewish community. She said she had had a fantastic time in this role, and had been “hitting the ground running for nine years”, most recently when she had the idea to replace a Covid-cancelled Klezmer tour with an online event – which turned out to be a world first, so attracted an international audience!

Vice Chair Fiona Brodie told the meeting she is very proud of the way our communities have been using online technology to stay together, but others expressed concern about loss of identity because geography is no longer so important. There were also concerns about technological and social deprivation, and changing demography that may see fewer than half of Scottish Jews living in the larger established central belt communities in next year’s census. These will be SCoJeC’s challenges in the future.

Finally, the meeting elected a new executive:

Chair:

Vice Chair:

Hon Treasurer:

Hon Secretary:

Alan Kay

Mark Taylor

Philip Mendelsohn

Nicola Livingston

and Alan closed the meeting by expressing his and the Council’s, thanks to Micheline for steering SCoJeC so successfully for the past four years, and to Fiona for all she has accomplished for the Council and the Community, and wished them both well in the future.

Click here to read the AGM reports and annual accounts.

 
Click here to watch the discussion with Stephen Bush

 

   
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