The head of the Jewish Leadership Council believes there are too many charities operating in the British Jewish community.
Speaking at the Limmud Festival in Birmingham on Sunday, Jonathan Goldstein, discussing financial sustainability, said bluntly: “We’ve got too many charities. We’re raising £90 million a year from private donations, trusts and individuals – that’s a huge amount of money. Yet I know there’s duplication all over the community.
“Ultimately, over the course of the next ten years, I bet you that of the 35 organisations [which are part of the JLC] five to seven of them will have merged together.”
At the packed-out session, the JLC chairman also presented his organisation’s plans to strengthen the UK’s Jewish community. These included the first ever national conference of Jewish care homes, and education and mental health programmes.
He said his organisation had identified financial sustainability, education, elderly care and young people’s mental health as “the biggest issues we have to address to ensure the continuing vibrancy of the Anglo-Jewish community”.
Goldstein noted that in 2016, 14 out of 21 Jewish elderly care homes around the country were in financial deficit, with the aggregate deficit being approximately £3 million, with 17 out of those 21 were projected to aggregate annual deficit as high as £14 million by 2020.
This would, he said, “impact will be seen most quickly in small communities because of the declining demand for care”.
Goldstein said that the JLC would hold the first ever national care conference of Jewish homes on 22 January in Birmingham, including most Jewish homes from around the country.
“The old saying that a problem shared is a problem halved could not be truer than when you sit organisations around the table”, he said.
“The most important thing that will come out of this conference is that people are sitting and talking about issues – and hopefully solutions will come out of it.”
Referring to education, Goldstein said that the JLC intended to roll out a new curriculum for Year Eight and Nine students in several Jewish schools in September. The curriculum would highlight Jewish issues “brought to me by the last two Israeli ambassadors in London. They said to me, ‘we went around the schools and we talked to them about modern Israeli and Jewish history in the context of the formation of Israel – they don’t seem to know their stuff.’ How can they possibly be equipped on campus if they don’t leave their schools knowing the basics?”
The curriculum would “tell the story within the context of the two-state solution”, and would include “the order of the wars [in Israel], what created these situations, what triggered environments within Israel, what are the basic dynamics within Israeli social society today.”
On young people’s mental health, he said: “I think we all know that our teenagers are in distress. There have been two suicides at Jewish schools in the last two and a half years.
“If you speak to Dr Mark Berelowitz [Clinical Lead for child and adolescent mental health services] at the Royal Free Hospital – our main consultant on this, he’ll tell you it’s not just Jews in north London, this is an epidemic amongst young Jewish children.
“If you speak to UJIA, who look after all Israel tours, they’ll tell you that their biggest issue, year after year now, is mental health of the children on the tours, not bad behaviour. My daughter was a madricha on FZY two summers ago, and she’ll tell you that the biggest challenge she had was getting some of the young girls to eat.”
After speaking to several communal mental health organisations, Goldstein said “what came out of this was the need to identify and signpost issues earlier than was previously being identified. Parents were in denial, schools weren’t equipped, signposting wasn’t occurring, facilities weren’t available.”
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