Before the formal business of our AGM, SCoJeC was delighted to hear from the leaders of two of the organisations we work with.
Marie van der Zyl, the newly elected President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said she had promised to be a "President for the whole Community" by showing support for regional and isolated communities, and was now fulfilling that promise by visiting Scotland. She praised SCoJeC and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council for their success in promoting the interests of Jewish people in Scotland, and said that London has a lot to learn from us. In reply to a question, she suggested underpinning the relationship between SCoJeC and the Board with a formal agreement setting out our respective roles and expectations.
We also heard from Sabir Zazai, in his first year as Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Refugee Council, who spoke movingly of his own experience. Born in Afghanistan, his family spent ten years as internal refugees, displaced by war, before his family sent him abroad to escape conscription by the Taliban. He eventually reached Dover as an asylum seeker, and was (literally) sent to Coventry, where he found such an open and welcoming atmosphere that he was even invited to join the Cathedral Council!. He commended Scotland's integration strategy and the way faiths and communities work together, and welcomed SCoJeC's participation in the Refugee Festival.
Turning to formal business, Chair Micheline Brannan reported on the year's activities, and thanked all SCoJeC's staff for their enormous dedication and the amount of hours, singling out SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski particularly for giving more than 100% without any remuneration. She also thanked community funders, as well as the Scottish Government, for their continuing financial support. Micheline stressed the good working relationship that we enjoy with the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council and with the Jewish Leadership Council, whose new Scotland Public Affairs Manager, Danielle Bett, was introduced to the meeting.
Ephraim said that the essence of SCoJeC is very well captured by the strap-line that had emerged from a very productive staff development session during the year – Representing, Connecting, and Supporting Jewish people in Scotland. He stressed the essential link between the representative and the other functions, because "we can only represent Jewish people in Scotland if we listen to what they have to say, and we can only hear what they have to say if we can get them in the same room, and we can only get them into the room by providing something to attract them there."
Presenting the Annual Report and Accounts for 2017, Ephraim explained that the deficit, while worrying, was a consequence of the pattern of grant income and expenditure on activities, and that we had in fact approximately broken even in the year to June. With the acclamation of those present, he thanked all the staff, volunteers, Council members, funders, and others who contribute to SCoJeC's success story, especially in reaching ever more isolated people throughout Scotland. In particular thanks were expressed to the Scottish Government for their grant from the "Promoting Equality and Cohesion" fund, to the Glasgow Jewish Community Trust for their contribution to general funds, and to the Netherlee and Clarkston Trust, and the Pears Foundation, for their support for outreach events and education.
The following office-bearers were elected: