Boris Johnson's bid to keep Charedim fitter

December 1, 2011
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Strictly Orthodox Jews are being encouraged to take up kayaking, football and a range of fitness activities as part of a new scheme aimed at making the community healthier.

Charedi communities have set up sports groups and exercise sessions through the Maccabi GB Enable Project, which uses funding from Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

Around £12,000 has been awarded so far, with 500 people doing more exercise and taking part in a wider range of activities as a result. The money is targeted at hard-to-reach parts of the community, where strictly Orthodox Jews would usually not take part in mixed-sex groups or cross-community sessions.

Exercise classes for carers, water sports for teenage boys, and nutrition classes for girls with learning difficulties have already attracted interest.

Maccabi GB is working with the Stamford Hill-based Interlink Foundation to distribute the money.

Interlink's Melanie Danon said: "This project is giving people opportunities to access activities they have not used before because they cannot use outside centres for religious and cultural reasons."

The SONshine Club has used a grant to set up a boys' football team and keep-fit classes for girls. Step by Step, which runs activities for disabled youngsters, will hold after-school sport classes, while the Tikva group is offering fitness sessions for carers who would not otherwise be able to afford to take part.

Martin Berliner, Maccabi GB chief executive, said: "This is a very exciting opportunity for Maccabi GB. The aims of the grant fit perfectly with our five-year Sports Development Programme which is designed to embrace a 'sport for everyone' culture."

Maccabi's Daniel Morris added: "It is a part of the community we wanted to be more involved in working with, but we have always found it hard to make good contacts. Doing it this way has been a perfect match for everyone."

Last updated: 12:16pm, December 1 2011