In July 2016, Marc Levy was appointed at the first North West external affairs manager for the Jewish Leadership Council. JLife got in touch to find more about Marc and his vital role within the community.
Could you tell us about your background?
I was born and have lived in Manchester all of my life. I went to the King David Campus from the age of three until I was 18. I studied law at The University of Birmingham and practiced for 11 years before joining the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) in 2016.
What do you love most about Manchester and the community?
Manchester has always been my home. I think it has the best of both worlds with a vibrant city centre a mere 15-minute drive from quiet suburbia. For young adults, the emergence of places like Prestwich Village and Chorlton is a massive positive. It is also an amazing place to bring up a family with lots of open green spaces.
It is extremely easy to live an open Jewish life in Manchester. Our communal organisations are at the very highest levels and are held out as examples of good practice. We also have the benefit of excellent restaurants and bakeries. Our shuls and rabbonim are open and approachable and there is always a feel-good factor around the community.
How did your role on the JLC come about and what is it about?
Having always been involved in communal organisations, I was aware of the fantastic work undertaken by the JLC. I saw the job advertised and the specification interested me massively.
The Manchester external affairs role was created as part of a wider JLC programme to invest in and support Jewish communities in the region. Two similar positions were also created in Glasgow, Leeds and the Midlands, and we are expecting an additional appointment in Wales as well.
My role is to strengthen the invaluable work undertaken by our established communal bodies.
I started by speaking with our communal stakeholders to fully understand any issues affecting the community. I have already alluded to the fact that our communal bodies operate at an exceptional standard and I am grateful that everyone I asked freely gave me their time.
I now primarily meet with the region’s elected representatives to discuss issues that are pertinent to the community. For many of the region’s politicians, I am the first representative from the Jewish community to come and visit them. Despite the fact we are geographically heavily concentrated as a community, every constituency in the country bar one, has a handful of people identifying as Jewish.
In addition, alongside colleagues from the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) I have actively engaged the region’s universities to ensure lines of communication are open on behalf of Jewish students.
How has the first year gone?
I am delighted that a communal resoruce has been created that did not exist before. My main aim was to meet and develop relationships with as many of the elected regional politicians as possible. I have been lucky that I have now seen almost every MP and council leader who I initially made contact with.
I am now undertaking my second, and in some cases third, meetings with the region’s politicians. The JLC is the strategic umbrella body for the main Jewish communal organisations. This gives me the opportunity to introduce our communal stakeholders to MPs and council leaders around the region and in Parliament. These meetings have proved to be beneficial to all people involved.
A particular highlight was the first civic reception hosted jointly by the JLC and Representative Council at Manchester Town Hall. Around 50 elected representatives were hosted by the community at the event.
It has been a rocky period for the Jewish interests in UK politics, and within the Labour Party in particular. What are your thoughts?
The Jewish community has a longstanding history within the Labour Party. It therefore came as a massive shock to the community and almost the entire Labour Party that a report into antisemitism had to be commissioned. I am however, pleased that every politician I have met has unequivocally condemned antisemitism and vows to stand with the Jewish community.
It has been the case where there has been some ambiguity around what constitutes antisemitism. However, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition on antisemitism that has been adopted by the government and the Labour Party gives much greater clarity. We must also remember that the community has been well supported by national government too. It has secured Jewish communal buildings with multi-million pound funding, as well as enacting legislation aimed at those who boycott Israel.
What can members of the Manchester Jewish community do to make sure their voice is heard?
The electoral system in this country gives each person a direct line to those who represent them. Everyone has a local councillor, council leader and MP they can contact directly. I would encourage people to call or write to their representatives if they feel strongly about a particular issue.
I feel it is also imperative that as many people as possible write to local press to ensure that the Jewish voice is heard.
What’s next for you?
The Manchester mayoral election in May is the biggest election of 2017. I have arranged for the leading candidates to be in contact with our regional communal bodies. I take great pride in being able to introduce them to the community and our member organisations.
I am looking forward to the communal hustings that have been arranged in conjunction with the Representative Council. At the Hustings, the JLC and Representative Council will be launching the communal manifesto which highlights a series of pledges that we hope to be adopted by the candidates.
Like many in the community, I am excited by the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. I am looking forward to working as part of the Manchester steering committee in planning what will be an amazing event.
Do you get any spare time?
I like to spend as much time as possible with my wife Rachel and four year-old twins Joey and Molly.
When time permits I am a massive sports fan and I try to get to both Old Trafford and Gigg Lane as often as possible. My Sky Sports subscription is well-utilised!
I also enjoy boxsets and TV series. My personal favourites at the moment are ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, ‘The West Wing’ and ‘24’.