Hub's mission to nurture bright ideas

UK Taskforce’s Alice Wood promotes engagement with Arab Israelis

UK Taskforce’s Alice Wood promotes engagement with Arab Israelis

Many of the community's most innovative social action projects have begun in a small office in West Hampstead. J-Hub, supported by the Pears Foundation, provides space, training and time to help people grow their new charities and companies. Current residents include human rights charity Rene Cassin and the UK Friends of the Abraham Fund Initiative. Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, former executive director of the Reform Movement is the hub's new director and three new Hub residents moved in a fortnight ago.

It was a surprise when the rabbi left the top post at Reform to manage J-Hub. But, she says, the job is second nature to her. "Working here is like going back to my roots; I used to work in leadership development. I see my role as making sure that everyone here has a chance of success. And everyone here is creating good in the world. I do believe that some people along the line will not succeed, but that's fine, because we should be taking risks. And it might be because we believe in the person."

Despite only having been in the job just over two weeks, she was an integral part of choosing new residents for J-Hub. "We picked two from a shortlist of seven, and formalised our relationship with a third. The people who come here have a great idea and we need to help them develop organisationally."

UK Taskforce on issues facing Arab citizens of Israel

● What does it do?

Gefiltefest’s Michael Leventhal

Gefiltefest’s Michael Leventhal

Director Alice Wood plans to build on the work she has been doing over the past year involving Arab citizens of Israel, which included taking 50 British Jewish representatives in February to meet Israeli Arabs. "We've met UJIA to talk about more contact with Arab citizens for young people when they go on tour or Birthright. People on the February trip were really interested in business connections with the companies we met - we are working on that."

● Why is it in J-Hub?

"It's a fantastic training opportunity," Ms Wood explains. "It's great to be so close to the Pears Foundation and interesting contacts from places like UJIA and the New Israel Fund."

● Why was it selected?

"They've actually been around a while but we've formalised our relationship with them," Rabbi Boyd-Gelfand says.

Gefiltefest

● What is it?

Aside from running the country's biggest Jewish food festival, Michael Leventhal is a campaigner on food and the environment. After this weekends's festival, he intends to fundraise for food and environment charities and develop a regional version of Gefiltefest in Scotland or Manchester.

● Why is it in J-Hub?

Mr Leventhal has been struck by the "buzz" around J-Hub. "I want to work on food on the environment but I don't have the specialised expertise that's needed. I wanted to be around like-minded individuals, like JVN."

● Why was it selected?

"The project is so great, it's growing and it's very successful," Rabbi Boyd Gelfand says. "If he can achieve this much, purely based on passion, then the sky's the limit."

Look to Learn

● What does it do?

Former Kerem primary school teacher Nic Abery wants to use museums and art galleries to inspire pupils to learn about Judaism. "I lead a text-based class in schools, then we visit a museum or gallery. It could be the Natural History Museum, for example, where we talk about Genesis. Why not learn about the Exodus by taking pupils to the British Museum to learn about Ancient Egypt?"

● Why is it in J-Hub?

For Ms Abery, the community within J-Hub is really important. She said: "We're a community of fixers, we're the Jewish Bob the Builders.To have people around you to bounce ideas off is amazing."

● What they say?

Rabbi Boyd Gelfand said: "We believe she's an incredible leader and wanted to invest in her."

Last updated: 10:06am, May 19 2011