Views from the Board
Supporting the Community

No two days are the same in Community Issues Division
by Colin Spanjar posted in Education

The Board of Deputies of British Jews Ė what do they do? Or more importantly when people find out who I work for they askĖ you work for them, what do you do that helps me? Itís an interesting question and usually gets a more than interesting response when I actually explain the range of subjects that I actually deal with on a day to day basis.

The best example of this has been the last ten days. It started last  Monday with a meeting concerning the fact that the Government want a foreign language taught at primary school level; they even go as far as listing the languages that they want: but they donít include either classical Hebrew or Ivrit. These are the cornerstone of language teaching in our schools, the essence of our culture, and if we donít try to protect them, then who will? Two days later on Wednesday, I am in a meeting concerning the Admissions code for entry between nursery and reception class where we had representatives from every corner of our community and a panel that included an eminent QC, and the Chief  Admissions Adjudicator. 

If there was ever a meeting that showed the Board at its best, this meeting was it. By Thursday, it was a visit to a school discussing the details of a formal presentation of a 250 year old Sefer Torah that had been presented to the Board by a family who found it hidden in loft Ė how it got there, where it came from, the questions just go on, but I doubt the answer will ever be found.

And then we come to Sunday, the Plenary and one of the best debates I can remember in nearly five years at the Board. Should the Board deal with Oxfam or not, should the Grow/Tazmiach project continue or not, should we talk to any NGO or just be the Board and stay safe. The debate was fierce and passionate on all sides and really showed the depth of the feeling within the community on what is a very complex discussion.  But it was a full, well informed debate, with a clear outcome.

I regard myself as very fortunate to be able to work for the Board, help the community in ways that people canít appreciate, be it when dealing with Education, Heritage, statistics, being on working parties for Yom Hashoah and countless other areas of work too numerous to mention here. 

As Director of the Community Issues Division I get the pleasure of visiting disused cemeteries in Wolverhampton, Penzance, Bristol, the East End of London, Swansea, Cardiff and Sunderland to name but few. Visiting schools to talk about Pikuach, admission criteria, Ofsted Ė the list goes on;  Not Brussels or Washington DC for me.  In a weird way we very much deal with the cycle of Jewish Life. From helping preserve the right of Jewish education for all Jewish Kids that want to attend a Jewish School, ensuring that subjects such as Ivrit, RE, Classical Hebrew are taught in our schools and are part of the national Curriculum, to ensuring the preservation of our heritage through taking Title of cemeteries throughout the country. Social Action, Youth Groups, Political Lobbying etc etc Ė the list just keeps going. If you want research done on all matters Jewish then you would come to this Division;  the community actually looks to us to tell them whatís happening within the community and itís that that makes the job fun. 

So, no two days are the same, no two issues are the same although on the face of they may look it. Itís fun and gratifying at the same time and the rewards when you actually see something come to fruition are amazing. I spent over 25 years working in the telecoms industry, running call centres and to be honest this goes down as one of the best jobs I could have wished to have. I help my own community in some small way every day Ė why wouldnít I be happy?