Special year for hub that connects the community

A little over 10 years ago, Pears  Foundation asked: Where are those organisations in the British Jewish community who are committed to a confident, inclusive, outward-looking expression of Judaism?

That question led to the foundation commissioning a mapping of the social action sector in the British Jewish community and to finding that there were indeed fellow travellers who shared this vision. But they needed a space and support in order to grow and thrive.

So Pears Foundation built JHub. They built it and they came. Boy, did they come.

Ten years later, JHub has “incubated” 16 small organisations that have garnered Jewish support for social action issues such as human rights (René Cassin), eradicating global poverty (Tzedek), and encouraging volunteering (Mitzvah Day, OLAM and Jewish Volunteering Network).

It has also scouted and brought other positive Jewish identity projects to the British Jewish community. These include PJ Library, Moishe House, and Jewish Interactive, which all receive funding
from significant American and Russian Jewish foundations.

JHub has been the fertile ground for projects such as JDOV, which started as a humble set of sessions at Limmud in 2011, and has grown into a fully-fledged website with more than 100 “Jewish TED Talk” videos with 100,000+ views.

So while JHub’s mission was to strengthen the British Jewish social action sector, a recent external review revealed our impact had been far wider.

Individual leaders – JHub did not set out to be a leadership training organisation, but soon realised it was impossible to professionalise the sector without providing support to the professionals who were leading it.

Organisational development – JHub was opened to help move social action from the margins to the mainstream of the British Jewish community. Our resident and alumni organisations have created a professionalised Jewish social action sector. Together, we have shifted the centre of gravity of our community so we not only focus on our internal issues, but also fulfil the Jewish mission of caring for the stranger and being a light unto the nations.

Wider British society – Perhaps the most surprising impact JHub has had is the way our residents and alumni have unintentionally represented the Jewish community to government and other faith groups. In doing so, they have built much-needed bridges with wider British society, demonstrating to our non-Jewish neighbours that Jews care deeply about global issues, and that this care is an inherently Jewish value. Not only that, but five other similar hubs, of various faiths, have been inspired by JHub.

For the past decade, we have done our best at JHub to measure our impact on the social action sector, while acknowledging that the areas that really matter – identity, relationships, values, leadership – are notoriously difficult to measure. A sector that was under-resourced and lacking support a decade ago, has become far more robust and professional.

JHub is proud to have played a significant role in that change. While there is still much work to do, we are committed to continuing to play our part. And we salute our residents, alumni and other organisations who, alongside us, have contributed to a more confident, outward-looking Jewish community.

About the Author
Shoshana Boyd Gelfand is Director, JHub
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