The Schmooze: I was wrong when I thought a communal job was second rate

We might not like to admit this but we don’t value the workforce of our communal organisations as much as we should


As CEO of a Jewish charity, I often ask members of our community for support; either their time through volunteering or much-needed donations.

However, I am increasingly finding myself having a different conversation — and one I feel we as a community need to be having more often.

For the last year, job openings in England have consistently outnumbered job-seekers.

Every colleague I speak to in communal organisations is facing the same challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining quality staff. It’s a job-seeker’s market out there and we are doing all we can to ensure we remain competitive in a crowded marketplace. Or are we? Maybe not.

The struggles we are facing are often around recruiting people who are from, or have knowledge of, the Jewish community. At Jewish Blind & Disabled, some of our roles require this.

In my own career, I worked for housing and social-care charities outside of the Jewish community for more than 20 years. If asked about roles within the community, I was swift to respond that I wasn’t interested.

But why? I’m now ready to admit that I saw working within the community as second rate — a perception I believe many of us inadvertently feed into.

We might not like to admit this but we don’t value the workforce of our communal organisations as much as we should.

Much of the latter part of my time working for charities and housing providers outside of the community was spent firefighting, moving from one crisis to the next. By chance, I then found myself working for Jewish Care.

Where my previous roles had entailed endless conversations complaining to MPs, things were now the total opposite.

Government ministers were proactively contacting us to understand what great provision looked like and questioning how others could learn from our community.

The partnership between the charity and the community, the support of an army of volunteers alongside generous donors, was like nothing I had experienced in my roles elsewhere.

The recruitment challenges we currently face are equally a concern for UK-wide charities. In a recent survey, recruitment was cited as a top three worry for large charities — with more than four in ten saying it was one of their biggest issues.

Having worked in the third sector for more than 20 years, I can, hand on heart, say that some of the best charities in the country are in our community.

But British Jewry has a small and ageing population. At times, trying to fill a role where knowledge and understanding of Jewish life is essential feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.

We at Jewish Blind & Disabled are facing increasing and unprecedented demand for our services. We want to develop to meet this demand but can do so only if we can recruit a suitably skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

We know we offer a great place to work — our recent staff survey confirmed this. Our staff satisfaction levels exceed all industry standards. However, there is clearly more we must do to attract people from within our community.

But I don’t think this is something we can do alone. I truly believe we need to have a major shift in attitudes across the community. How can we achieve this?

As our children often look to us for guidance and advice, maybe we should point them towards the community if they are considering a career where they can make an impact.

They could think about roles in management, care or marketing, to name but a few. And for those of you out there whose job satisfaction is low, do you have transferable skills and experience that your community is looking for?

If, like the former me, you think working in the community is second rate, think again. I did — and I couldn’t be happier.

Lisa Wimborne is CEO of Jewish Blind & Disabled

For information about communal jobs, go to or

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive