UJIA ‘bullish’ on future despite job and budget cuts

Charity leaders say online event to launch centenary will be 'a bold statement about who we are and what our impact has been'


UJIA will mark the start of its centenary year with an online celebration which its leaders hope will improve finances diminished by the pandemic.

Next week’s event will feature contributions from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and singer-songwriter Idan Raichel. Chief executive Mandie Winston acknowledged that while a virtual gathering was unlikely to generate the multi-million pound proceeds of a traditional UJIA national dinner, it was vital to recoup some of its losses.

Fundraising is down £1.5 million on last year’s campaign and the charity’s budget for the year ahead has been slashed by almost £2 million.

At the height of lockdown, 32 of its 55 employees were on furlough. Eleven staff have since been made redundant and a further three roles are unfilled due to a hiring freeze — making a total reduction of around a quarter of the workforce.

Senior management had taken a ten per cent pay cut, which has since been reduced to five per cent.

UJIA chair Louise Jacobs said reserves had been used “responsibly” and that no programmes had been dropped, although its flagship activity, Israel tours, could not take place this year.

“We’re not cutting anything completely. We are reducing our grants to some people. We look at new programming every year anyway, in terms of making sure the programme feels fresh. We may just not be taking on some commitments we had thought about taking on.”

As for its major online gathering, the aim was to create “an event that really launches our centenary year with a bold statement about who we are and what our impact has been over the last 100 years”, Ms Winston said.

It was also a declaration that British Jewry’s connection to Israel was “as important today as it was in 1920”.

She was “bullish” about UJIA’s future, saying the plan for 2021 was to run a double year of Israel tours to ensure no teenager missed out on the opportunity. Accordingly, UJIA has increased its bursary pot to meet the anticipated additional demand from families hit hard by the pandemic.

Having herself been to Israel under UJIA’s auspices when she was 15, Ms Winston was “incredibly disappointed” about the tours’ cancellation and the upset it had caused within the community.

Although proud of UJIA’s digital offering, she did not think it “ever replaces an in-person connection with Israel”.

Meanwhile, with the likelihood of rising unemployment in Israel, currently in its second lockdown, Ms Winston wants the charity’s Si3 programme — providing job initiatives and investment in Israel — to play its part in mitigating the effects of the crisis.



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