A prominent British community educator has been appointed to take the reins at the new Jewish Community Centre for London.
Limmud’s Raymond Simonson will start as the Finchley Road centre’s chief executive when the JCC opens in autumn next year, and work side-by-side on its programme and development with its present chief executive, Nick Viner.
Mr Simonson, 39, has been in charge at Limmud, the community’s leading informal education organisation, since becoming its first full-time executive director in 2006.
In his six years at Limmud it has gone from strength to strength, with several thousand British Jews attending its annual conference and events throughout the year.
Before joining Limmud, Mr Simonson was director of UJIA Makor’s centre for informal Jewish education. The father-of-two, who grew up in Redbridge and now lives in Finchley, studied Jewish history as an undergraduate and has an MA in community and youth work.
The JCC, which has been in the planning for a decade, is based on similar centres in North America — it will be the first such venture in the UK — and will include a kosher café, school, nursery and conference and lecture-theatre facilities as well as areas for arts workshops and rehearsal studios. The intention is that it will cater for Jews from every background.
Mr Simonson expressed sadness about leaving Limmud but said he was thrilled by the opportunity to run the JCC.
“I’m inspired by what the organisation has achieved to date and I strongly identify with its vision,” he added.
“We couldn’t be more fortunate in having such a magnificent new community centre building — it’s truly exceptional and I want to make sure that what goes on inside it is just as exceptional in terms of creativity, quality and variety.”
The appointment was welcomed by Mr Viner, who said that the JCC and Limmud “have a great deal in common, not least inclusiveness and the fundamental importance of cross-communal values. “
Debbie Klein, chairman of the JCC board, described Mr Simonson as a “home-grown talent” who would help transform Jewish life in London.