JLife sits down with Yael Mohaliver-Brif to get to know more about UJIA’s new Manchester-based regional director for the north.
Hi Yael, tell us all about yourself!
I grew up in Sefad in the very upper Gallilee – my family has lived there for over nine generations. At 16, I received a scholarship for the United World College programme, where you could be sent anywhere in the world to study. I was assigned to Wales, and spent two incredible years at a boarding school in a very small Jewish community there. It was a life changing experience and I feel very much at home in the UK.
When I turned 18, I returned to Israel to serve as an officer in the liaison and foreign relations division of the Israeli Defence Forces, after which I studied International Relations at university before working in marketing for the fitness brand Holmes Place.
I had two kids, my son Barak, who is six and daughter Noga, who is three-and-a-half. After Noga was born I had a change of heart. My time away combined with my experience as an officer made me realise my passion is to work with and for Israel. So I took everything I knew about sales and marketing and transferred it to doing good for Israeli society. I found myself as a research development manager at a small non-profit organisation in Israel that works in the education system to benefit the underprivileged.
When the position at UJIA came along, it was more luck than anything. I wasn’t in the market for a job, but when I started the process, it felt as if everything had been leading up to this. It was literally a no-brainer – it meant being able to do good on such a large scale, and an opportunity to strengthen the connection between British Jewry and Israel. I felt extremely privileged to be offered a job which encapsulated all my passion in one package.
How have you and your family settled in here?
As much as I love Israeli sun, I really enjoy having a proper winter! Having spent two years in Wales you can’t be afraid of bad weather – as beautiful as it is, you don’t forget the grey and cold. But with the incredibly warm welcome my family have received from the community since we arrived, we feel very much at home here in North Manchester. Although I do miss my family. I’m the youngest of four siblings, and we all used to live close by. But they have all promised to visit, especially now EL AL are running direct flights!
My eldest child, Barak, (which means lightning in Hebrew), is attending King David High School and my daughter Noga has joined Aim Habonim. My husband Alon, (the Mohaliver comes from me, and the Brif from him) has been my pillar, supporting my passion all the way. He was a naval officer and lawyer back in Israel, however he can’t practice law here, so we’re just settling down into Manchester life, taking some time to balance the ship.
I used to live in a neighbourhood similar to a kibbutz, where everything was within walking distance – so I do miss being able to leave the car at home. But even though Manchester is so sprawling, it still maintains such an incredible sense of community – it’s just the logistics are slightly different. Let’s just say the motorway and I are not best friends at the moment!
What does your role as regional director entail?
Growing up in northern Israel, I know the value of UJIA projects first-hand. A strong Israel needs a strong diaspora and I believe we facilitate that. We’re active in the UK connecting British Jewry to their homeland and able to take that support to empower Israel. We operate with the community, for the community, teaching people to fish, rather than giving them fish, inspiring them to lead better lives.
When you’re trying to market something, you have to believe in it, or you won’t be able to sell it – you have to genuinely feel it suits your goals and values as a person. When it comes to my role in canvassing for Israel, my heart falls in place with the UJIA’s vision and I’m privileged to be working with people who share that with me.
So, how have you found it so far?
I’ve found it fascinating – it’s been intense, but in a good way! UJIA was founded in 1920, so my greatest challenge is to identify where we go next as an organisation while keeping a solid base. We always want to grow, and do things bigger and better, so we need to understand our potential, and where our vital services are most needed in the community. I have a great team behind me and I’m looking forward to continuing full steam ahead. I was an Israeli officer, so when we do something, we storm at it, full power!
What does UJIA have in store for Manchester in 2020?
We’re ensuring that we cater for every age group – we’ll find something to keep you interested in what we’re doing. We’re going to continue supporting our projects in Israel, alongside an exciting range of activities here in Manchester. We have the business breakfast, the sports dinner and we’re planning more women’s events. One new project we’re hoping to announce is a series of talks from interesting speakers in the world of business hailing from both the UK and Israel. This year will be as good, if not better than the last!
Take a Hike!
Sign up for the International Women’s Day Peak District trek in in support of UJIA and its Al Sanabel catering social enterprise in the Negev!