In the first of our series of interviews with honorary officers and staff, Simon Round speaks to Regional Coronavirus Advice Capacity Help (Co-Ach) Manager Sara Radivan about Jewish life in the regions and the challenges of lockdown.
Sara Radivan has been in her post at the Board of Deputies since April. Despite being a valued and popular member of the professional staff team, she has yet to meet any of her colleagues in person – or indeed anyone else.
This is of course one of the many consequences of the Coronavirus emergency. In fact, Sara’s role – to support regional communities – was prompted partly by the disruption caused by the onset of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown.
Sara, the Regional Coronavirus Advice Capacity Help (Co-Ach) Manager, has enjoyed her first few months in the job and has found ways provide support to the regions during the crisis despite the restrictions. She says: “It’s been a very busy but also a really rewarding few months so far. This is a job which was created in response to needs identified in consultation with rep councils around the country. Of course it’s frustrating that I can’t get out there and start meeting people, including my own colleagues. However, one of the advantages of Zoom is that communities in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have come together to share experiences and information about the crisis. This has really brought the communities together at a time when we have been physically isolated and the Board has been the glue in this process, which is gratifying.”
The Board of Deputies has, in the past, sometimes been seen as less than truly national. However, Sara, who was born and grew up in Liverpool and recently moved to Manchester, thinks this is an old-fashioned view. “People across the country see the great work the Board of Deputies is doing and they are genuinely grateful. Those I have spoken to are also really positive and excited that we now have a member of staff who lives in the north and whose job it is to understand the needs of, and provide help to, the regions.”
Sara was always a supporter of the Board of Deputies’ work but now, having seen the organisation from the inside, she is an even bigger fan, as her husband and daughter can confirm. “Whatever day of the week it is, the Board will always come up in conversation at home. It’s got to the point when they now roll their eyes when I get on to the subject. But the truth is I’m loving what I’m doing. I’ve seen all the sterling work that’s going on and its exciting.”
She does acknowledge that her job is a complex one. Communities around the country come in many shapes and sizes and their needs are different. However, Sara has a basic guiding principle. “Whatever their size I treat every community as equally important.”
Sara grew up in Liverpool, a large city with a small Jewish community. It has shrunk from 8,000 when she was a child to somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 today. However, Sara says it retains its warmth and members are still well-looked after. “It was a great community to grow up in and even now it’s a very busy community. There is so much going on. The infrastructure is still there but numbers are continuing to shrink.”
Like many of her contemporaries, Sara left Liverpool to live in London after training as a medical secretary. However, she returned to the city and 10 years ago she started working for the community as activities coordinator. “I’ve always been involved in the community I found my niche as a community worker. I have always been very passionate about about my religion. If I can spread the word within our community I want to do that. That’s why I was happy to get the opportunity to work with the Board of Deputies.”
Sara is looking forward to being able to get out of the house. Since her move to Manchester in the spring she has not been able to socialise. “I’m a people person, so when I’m able, I’ll be very happy to get out there and starting meeting everyone in person. One of the best parts of working for the community is having the opportunity to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise get to know. I’m getting itchy feet now.”