Tackling failed youth connection in Leeds

By John Fisher, November 4, 2013
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Leeds Jewish Orthodox Youth’s new full-time director has told local leaders that its activities lacked a “real connection to Judaism”, a situation he was working to rectify.

Addressing Leeds Jewish Representative Council, Robert Marks said the youth group’s winter musicals were “hugely successful and a great way of involving kids. But I don’t think the youngsters feel socially that what they do has any real connection to Judaism and I don’t feel they think it needs to either.”

A fortnightly after-school club for years five and six and a Monday night barmitzvah class had been launched.
Mr Marks also wanted to stimulate discussion among the late teens through a sixth-form debating society. He hoped to involve teenagers in communal activities such as volunteering.

“It is essential they are aware of what is around them and realise that in a few years the community will be theirs to run.” And if numbers were to increase, “we need a strong presence in schools”.

He recalled running Bnei Akiva in Manchester, where members came to have fun, “but we taught them a little bit as well, without them necessarily realising it”.

Delegates were also told of a small influx of Jewish arrivals from other UK areas and overseas who had made contact through the rep council website run by its development executive Susie Gordon.

“That is all down to how great the Leeds Jewish community is,” claimed council president Simon Jackson. “If we can replicate that year on year then it augurs well for the future.”

Although “all regional cities lose out to London because of the attractions there, I think we should accent on the positive.”

A number of young families had moved back to Leeds because of the infrastructure and facilities. “They can get a house, a job and enjoy a good quality of life here.”
Councillor Dan Cohen cited the example of a family relocating to Leeds who made an appeal for help with domestic furnishings through the LJRC Facebook page.

“The response was phenomenal and we were able to assist with advice on available facilities and placements in school.”

Last updated: 11:45am, November 4 2013