BoNO Chair Report for AGM July 2016

6 July 2016 – 30 Sivan 5776

Simon Benscher
5 July 2016
Someone was once quoted as saying “a week is a long time in politics”. A year as chair of LJ seems to have flown by. I guess the fact that I have enjoyed pretty much every minute of these past 12 months has a lot to do with why it has passed so quickly.
I have lost count the number of Shabbats I have spent in communities around the country (and Ireland) and the number of lunches in homes that often follow (nicknamed my shul crawl by a fellow Woodford member). Rededications, fundraising dinners, civic services, lunches at the House of Lords (but I’m not one to name drop), meetings with my co-conspirators on the Alliance either at breakfast time or tea time depending on peoples diaries are all a pleasure and in my opinion an important part of the role of chair.
AGM attendances have up until now been almost exclusively at my own shul and to be perfectly honest not my idea of a fun night out but being invited to attend AGMs at other shuls is not only a pleasure but it gives me the opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones and to learn and share in their issues and successes. The other opportunity these invites offer is for me to reaffirm the relationships that we treasure so much between the professional and volunteer workers at the Montagu Centre and our communities. To highlight the amazing work and success that our youth department is achieving under the inspirational leadership of Becca Fetterman is obviously a joy. To share the discussions and decisions that we are making in our Alliance group is important. Generally, these visits are a critical reminder that The Montagu Centre only exists for the benefit of our communities and their success is our success and equally their problems are ours as well.
Our connection with the Leo Baeck College has been a large part of my year. The fiscal struggles that our College has are no secret and with our partners in the MRJ we hope that we can find a long-term solution that will enable it to continue to be our brilliant, awesome seminary.
Trying to work closely with Danny is a challenge not only because his energy levels are much higher than mine but also because he is so driven and gives so much of himself for our benefit that it is hard to keep up. He travels the length and breadth of the UK and increasingly abroad representing LJ and ensuring our voice is heard and our influence is spreading. We are gifted that our CEO is such an inspiration.
Speaking of inspiration it has been such a joy to work with our Rabbis. We are envied over the close relationship that we the lay leadership have with our Rabbinic Conference. Its joint chairs Rabbis Alexander Wright and Richard Jacobi have connected well with our board of national officers and I am looking forward to continuing the warm respectful relationship that has ensued.
If I had to highlight one thing in the past year I guess it would have to be the EUPJ conference. An amazing weekend, well organised and choreographed but from my perspective it was the private and public acknowledgement of the massive influence LJ had at the weekend and also on Progressive Judaism in the UK.
So, that’s a brief insight into my first year as your chair and I am looking forward to next.

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