Revived Mizrachi looks to take centre stage


Youth movement Bnei Akiva has long been one of the UK's leading Zionist organisations. The same, however, could not be said for its parent body Mizrachi, which went into an extended period of hibernation some years ago.

Now a new team at the top is looking to make the Orthodox religious Zionist movement a force within British Jewry once more.

"Mizrachi's goal is to place the religious and Torah focus at the centre of the Zionist narrative," said its executive director Joshua Pomerance. To do that it had switched emphasis. "Previously Mizrachi was about politics, supporting Israeli political parties in Israel. But now our focus is on education and social and cultural events connected with Israel."

The former Immanuel College pupil has been employed since January, but was involved in the revival process as a volunteer for the preceding two years. As a former Bnei Akiva education director and Jewish studies teacher at Yavneh College, he is well-placed to advance its educational mission.

In January, he will be joined by the new chief executive, Rabbi Andrew Shaw, who oversaw the establishment of the United Synagogue's youth division, Tribe.

"Mizrachi was dormant for about 10 years," Mr Pomerance acknowledged. "The main issue that started the downturn was lack of funding. When I came on board as a volunteer, there had been someone a couple of years before trying to get it off the ground but no one took the bait. I was willing to put in a lot of effort and it coincided with a revival of world Mizrachi. Everything came together to allow us to revive it here."

Its chairman is businessman Steven Blumgart, who recently moved to the UK from Switzerland. He grew up in South Africa, where Mizrachi has remained a central organisation.

"He was excited about Mizrachi starting up again here and he wanted to be involved," Mr Pomerance said.

Educational programmes over the coming months will feature a number of visiting speakers from Israel. One will be Racheli Fraenkel, mother of 16-year-old Naftali, one of the three boys murdered after being abducted by Palestinian terrorists last summer, whose deaths set off a chain of events leading to the Gaza War.

An indication that the revived movement is on the right track is the response to its Yom Yerushalayim celebration. In 2014, 50 attended a dinner it held to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem. A year later, its concert attracted an audience of 300.

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