Leeds supporting Spanish transfer deal

By Jonathan Kalmus, July 22, 2011
New faces: Jorge Jaroslavsky, Dovrat Levy and son Daniel outside their housing association property

New faces: Jorge Jaroslavsky, Dovrat Levy and son Daniel outside their housing association property

Browsing the JC website in their Valencia home, Dovrat Levy and her husband Jorge Jaroslavsky were intrigued by a story on the efforts of Leeds Jewry development worker Susie Gordon to encourage newcomers.

Last week, the couple put that commitment to the test by starting a new life in England with 12-year-old son Daniel.

Victims of the economic downturn in Spain, they arrived with only their clothes and no immediate prospect of employment, having arranged temporary lodgings with friends in Bradford. With the support of Leeds Jewish Housing Association, they have already moved into a permanent property and are feeling more confident about the future.

"We saw that part of Susie's job was to help newcomers to find jobs," Ms Levy explained. "She gave us information about the job scene and about the King David in Manchester, where children from Leeds travel to go to school. We are interested to have Daniel studying there."

Within two hours of meeting Ms Gordon, the family was allocated priority housing by the LJHA. "They even arranged someone to lend us some furniture. A home was one of the biggest problems.

"If you are foreign, out of a job and you go to private landlords, you have to pay six months' rent in advance and a month deposit. We can't afford this so we are very grateful," said Ms Levy, who hopes to gain a UK teaching qualification enabling her to convert her musical talents into employment.

She met her husband through a Latin-Jewish dating website and he moved to Valencia from Buenos Aires four years ago. Mr Jaroslavsky had developed a growing IT consultancy business and Ms Levy, an Israeli, had become an accomplished composer, professional music coach and theatre director with her own jazz quartet. Daniel is her son from her first marriage.

However, the IT business imploded and Ms Levy's work dried up as the Spanish economic situation worsened and the Valencia unemployment figure hit 27 per cent.

"Last year I had 350 clients and was very happy, but all of my clients said they can't pay and they didn't want me to work for them frequently," Mr Jaroslavsky said. "My wife had a job where there is no money during the summer season."

"If you are over 35, it's impossible to get a job in Spain," claimed Ms Levy, 45.

"We decided we had to move to where the economic situation is better. I wanted to go to London, but it's so expensive and we don't have a lot of savings. It was too risky.

"I feel afraid and happy. I'm most afraid of not getting a job. But without Susie, I'd rather not think what could have happened. I really cannot believe all the help from the housing association. I never imagined in my wildest dreams we were going to be helped like this. I'm really touched."

Mr Jaroslavsky, also 45, pointed out that he was "accustomed to a huge community. In Buenos Aires, there are 300,000 Jews. Valencia has only about 100 Jewish families.

"We first spoke about going to London. In a huge city communities never share the same activities, so we thought Leeds was better."

He wants to give something back by volunteering in the community, starting with founding a social group for over-35s, one of many projects Ms Gordon is trying to get off the ground to kick-start growth in the 8,000 Jewish community.

"The Leeds community can be spread out and it can be hard to become part of something," she said. "Things like this new 35 group mean that when people think of moving to Leeds, there is something they can immediately belong to."

For Mr Jaroslavsky, "to be in a Jewish community means you can feel at home wherever you go. I hope we have finally made it home here."

Last updated: 10:44am, July 22 2011