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

 

Farewell to Fiona

 
Click here to watch a montage of events organised by Fiona,
and a selection of farewell messages from her retirement party

 

20 October 2020

Fiona Frank: 9 years of SCoJeC Projects and Outreach

Fiona Frank’s tenure as a member of the SCoJeC team ended in September when she retired after nine years as our Project and Outreach Manager. During this time she has shaped our events and outreach programme, led our research activities, extended our network into the most distant corners of the country, and even played and danced at our Klezmer concerts. Fiona really has been the embodiment of SCoJeC’s credo that to represent the Community we need first to listen to them, to listen to them we must connect with them, and to connect with them we must first get them into the room, and to get them into the room we have to lay on events and activities that attract them. She was responsible for, and embodied, our strapline: Representing, Connecting, and Supporting Jewish People in Scotland, she will be a very hard act to follow.

Since we couldn't have a normal retirement party for Fiona because of the pandemic, we held one on Zoom just after Rosh HaShanah, and sent out seasonal honey cakes by post so everyone could wish her a sweet retirement! All the participants took turns – ably compered by Jewish Telegraph journalist Colin Grant – to pay tribute to Fiona's enthusiasm, energy, and ideas – and her seemingly bottomless suitcase full of bagels! The highlight of the party was when Edinburgh fiddle player Gica Loening played a tune she had composed specially for the occasion, Fiona Frank's Welcome to Scotland, and Fiona could be seen dancing as Gica played! 

Fiona Frank: 9 years of SCoJeC Projects and Outreach

Fiona Frank: 9 years of SCoJeC Projects and Outreach

 

Here Fiona reflects on some of the highlights:

Back in August 2011 I had just submitted my PhD, an oral history study of five generations of one Scottish Jewish family (the family that my aunt, artist Hannah Frank, had married into). The Department of Continuing Education at Lancaster University where I’d been working had closed down and made us all redundant, and although I was looking out for my next challenge, it was beyond my wildest dreams that I’d find my ‘dream job’ – a year with SCoJeC, researching the experience of being Jewish in Scotland! Several friends emailed me the job ad when they saw it, and I was very happy to be appointed.

Fiona Frank: 9 years of SCoJeC Projects and Outreach

I started a couple of months later, and for the first year my job consisted of running a selection of Jewish cultural events around Scotland, and conducting focus groups with people who turned up, as well as designing a survey, and analysing the responses.

While I was planning this, I went to audition a Glasgow based Klezmer band to play at one of our events, but they auditioned me  and I ended up playing concertina and calling with them for two years!

Since we discovered that many Scottish Jews outwith the central belt felt pretty isolated and were very keen to connect with each other, we’ve run events all round the country to make that ‘connection’ happen; we managed an innovative online forum for a few years (till the technology was overtaken by Facebook); we ran a pilot project training students to work with older people, supporting them to use online platforms to communicate with their children and grandchildren outwith Glasgow; and, working with Zoe Jacobs at first, and later with Joanne Gabbay, we trained people to go into schools to run classes and activities about Judaism.

Fiona Frank: 9 years of SCoJeC Projects and Outreach

I’ve had a BALL working with SCoJeC over the past nine years. I’ve met Jewish people all over the country; I’ve been able to travel to Invernesshire, to Shetland, to Arran, to Islay, to the cities and the countryside in the pursuit of representing, connecting and supporting Jewish people in Scotland. We’ve conducted two more inquiries into the experience of being Jewish in Scotland, which we’ve used to constantly update our ‘offer’ and ensure that people feel their voices are being heard.

I’ve particularly enjoyed bringing Klezmer music, to wider audiences, and particularly in programming musical events through the years, working with many musicians from Scotland and further afield.

Fiona Frank: 9 years of SCoJeC Projects and Outreach

One highlight was a papercutting workshop we held in Falkirk as part of Interfaith Scotland Week in 2017 with a Jewish paper cutter, Abi Pirani, and a Muslim papercutter, Maryam Golubeva. We brought together Jewish and Muslim young people to work with the two artists, and they produced fantastic art work!

In my last two months before retiring, I’ve been working with my successor, Ruby, to set up a Climate Emergency Framework for the Scottish Jewish Community that will support the community to think about a phased return to ‘normality’. This is something that’s very close to my heart and fits in well with the planned COP26 international climate summit that was due to come to Glasgow this November.

Fiona Frank: 9 years of SCoJeC Projects and Outreach

I’ve also been very busy during lockdown, learning all I can about Zoom and running concerts, talks, a Scottish Jewish Art Club, and regular Zoom training sessions, as well as supporting other communal organisations to help them use SCoJeC’s large Zoom meeting space.

We have many benefits from online events – people from remote villages and people with disabilities have been able to attend our events for the first time, and we’ve been able to engage speakers and performers – as well as audience members – from all over the world. So I hope that SCoJeC’s future will include a ‘blended offer’ – continuing to run some ‘Zoom’ events as well as our traditional site-based activities, and some face to face events which will be filmed and broadcast to a remote audience too.

I’ll be very sad to leave SCoJeC, but I was very happy to see Ruby’s plans and I’m sure the organisation – and the Scottish Jewish Community – will be left in good hands!

Fiona Frank: 9 years of SCoJeC Projects and Outreach

 
Click here to watch a montage of events organised by Fiona,
and a selection of farewell messages from her retirement party

 

   
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