JLife speaks to Susie Gordon, director of Leeds Jewish Representative Council (JRC) ahead of what is set to be the biggest ever cross-community conversation on shaping the future of North Leeds.
Hi Susie, tell us about the event!
Our community has many voices, and at the JRC, we want to create a space to ensure we can come together to talk about our wellbeing as a whole. The event is being delivered in collaboration with our Jewish community organisations and led by a steering group made up of community members. It’s going to be a huge occasion for anyone who cares about the future of the Leeds Jewish community.
This is the most exciting event I have ever worked on while I have been in this role. There will be a lot to celebrate, but also the event will provide opportunities to have the conversations that are important to them, with like-minded people, which will help us to create new ideas, initiatives and relationships. We would love everyone to be there and ask everyone to tell their friends and family, as their participation is really important to all of us.
What brought about the idea for this discussion?
Good question! The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) supported the Jewish community in Athens to deliver a similar event a couple of years ago, and it was such a success, we would like to try it here. There aren’t many opportunities to really speak about things we care about in the community, other than behind closed doors. We’d like to take the issues we talk about over a Friday night dinner and give people a platform to get our voices heard.
What issues have community members raised in the past?
Those that attended some of our smaller collaborative workshops came out with ideas about the type of community they would like to live in. Attendees wanted to optimise the community’s potential, all pulling in the same direction to increase our connections, theologically and culturally. People were also keen to increase everyone’s love and passion for living here, reducing what some perceived to be an apathy towards the community and empowering others to take action.
This event will encapsulate all of these feelings and will hopefully bring more people into the conversation that want to be, so we can continue the conversation about how we can work towards this shared vision for a stronger, more resilient community.
— Susannah Gordon (@SusannahEGordon) October 4, 2019
Who do you hope will attend?
Anyone who cares about the future of the community! From teens upwards, whether you’re single or married, religious or non-religious and from any Jewish denomination, to those that are affiliated to those that are completely unaffiliated, everyone is welcome. If you’re a parent worried about childcare, there will be plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied, while you get involved in the discussion.
What can attendees expect on the day?
Have you ever come away from a party or kiddush and been really excited about a new person you met or a conversation that really inspired you? This is what we want to create: for everyone in the room to feel part of the conversation and to go home feeling part of something really special. There will be questions to answer but mostly an opportunity to really listen to each other.
How will their input impact the future of the community?
I read a fascinating book by Jewish educator Dr Ron Wolfson, entitled ‘Relational Judaism, Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community’. One passage particularly resonated with me: “We have a shot at engaging our people in the 21st century if our value proposition is the opportunity to be in a face-to-face meaningful relationship with Jews and Judaism in a relational community that offers a path to meaning and purpose, belonging and blessing.” I would love to see this event, and other community initiatives, helping to contribute towards this beautiful sentiment.