Board shot in the arm for small Jewish communities
The Board of Deputies is preparing to launch a new scheme to help the country’s smallest communities later this year amid concern over the current lack of support.
Rabbi Reuben Livingstone, director of the Office of Small Communities (OSC), said his had become “a ghost role” since UJIA ended funding last year.
But the Board revealed this week that it is setting up a cross-communal service called the Community Partnership Project, with just over half the costs covered by the Jewish Leadership Council’s community chest.
Board senior vice-president Laura Marks, who will chair the project, said it would cover communities “that might have just a handful of members, as well as ones that are affiliated to the Board, some of which are growing and some of which are shrinking”.
It’s part of my life and I’m not ready to stop
The initiative would be about “bringing the richness and resources of British Jewry to small communities, which contribute to the diversity of the Jewish community,” she said.
The UJIA shouldered responsibility for the OSC after the Jewish Memorial Council pulled out a few years ago. But the annual budget dropped from £75,000 to £40,000 in 2011 and was down to £15,000 when the UJIA withdrew in December.
Rabbi Livingstone, who became director of the OSC in February last year, said:
“There urgently needs to be a solution. There is a risk that the renewal of the programmes over the past year will be dissipated because of the funding hiatus.”
His office has 46 Jewish “clusters” around the country on its books, ranging from barely a dozen to 80 families and amounting to around 3,000 Jews in all.
Also active in the field is the Reverend Malcolm Weisman, who started the OSC more than 50 years ago and continues his travelling spiritual mission to communities as far flung as the Isle of Man and the Channel Isles.
He reckons to have clocked up 25,000 miles on visits last year.
Mr Weisman, who last month conducted a Purim service on the Isle of Wight, said that he had raised nearly three-quarters of the £20,000 he needed to cover his costs this year.
“I am carrying on even if I have to pay for it myself,” he said.
“People think I am mad but I love to do it. I am constantly on the lookout to bring people to a greater appreciation of the value of their Jewish heritage. It’s very much part of my life and I’m not prepared to stop.”