Leonie’s View – What We Can Learn from the Birmingham Community

Leonie, JVN Director, has been a very busy bee this week! Aside from her regular jam-packed schedule of meetings, fundraising and replying to countless e-mails – not to mention the vast amounts of volunteering she does on the side – Leonie managed this week to squeeze in a trip to Birmingham. Dwarfed in comparison by London, with the constant stream of Jewish activity, the Birmingham Jewish community is often overlooked when it comes to recognising great efforts and achievements. But, as Leonie discovered this week, Birmingham has a very important role to play, and the volunteering that goes on away from the London limelight can be seen as a great example of what a Jewish community should be like. Here’s her account of her visit…

Us Jewish Londoners often tend to ignore or downplay any activity north of the Watford Gap. So city-centric are we that London and perhaps Manchester are the starting and finishing points of our Jewish existences. Of course, we know things happen outside our fair city, but we inadvertently, and to our discredit, view such “outsider” projects with snobbery and disdain.

The BJCC is Birmingham's premier Jewish caring service

The BJCC is Birmingham’s premier Jewish caring service

I was brought down to earth following an illuminating and inspiring visit to Birmingham on Tuesday. I met with staff at the Andrew Cohen Centre owned by Birmingham Jewish Community Care (BJCC), Birmingham’s premier association for caring for the Jewish elderly, and was blown away by their activity programme for both seniors and those living independently in the Housing Association flats. I was informed of the volunteers who run programmes covering everything from beauty therapy to reminiscing about the good old days.

ACH also holds shul services on Shabbat and Yamim Tovim for the benefit of the residents of ACH and Silverstone Court. These services are run by a dedicated group of volunteers together with Rabbi Shmuel Arkush and attended by members of the community who, along with the students, help to ensure the minyan and sustain the Jewish ethos throughout the year.

Students also play an active part in keeping the variety of activities on offer fresh and entertaining, so much so that Jewish holidays just wouldn’t be the same without their regular support. ACH is actively looking for another 10 students on Thursdays and Sunday afternoons. Contact Cesar Cabalan on 0121- 459 3819 if you can help.

Students play an active part in keeping the variety of activities on offer fresh and entertaining, so much so that Jewish holidays just wouldn’t be the same without their regular support . The Centre is actively looking for another 10 students on Thursdays and Sunday afternoons. Contact Cesar Cabalan on 0121 459 3819 if you can help.

Click here to find out what Birmingham JSoc are up to.

Click on the picture to find out what Birmingham JSoc are up to.

Following this I met students in a thriving residential Hillel House. Hillel is sometimes viewed by the community as an outdated and old-fashioned facility for students, just there to help out those students who wish to live in Kosher accommodation. However, Birmingham Hillel is not so much a dinosaur but rather a lion. This student centre had a wonderful atmosphere, was well loved and well used. The students I met were keen to engage in volunteering locally and knew of  others who were actively making a difference in the community. For details about the great and thriving Jewish Society in Birmingham, contact Julia Bayer by clicking here and watch this space for forthcoming developments around student volunteering in Birmingham. For information about Hillel, address an e-mail to RuthShe and her wonderful team voluntarily ensure that the place is home from home and central to the wellbeing of the community.

Birmingham made me value all that’s good about not being London!

Find out more about JVN’s work in the regions by contacting Es, our Regional Development Manager, and register on our website as a JVN volunteer today!

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Categories: Leonie's View

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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