Hanan Charles has always been community minded. He has been a member of East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue since he settled in the UK with his British wife in the 1980s. However, in the past four years he has spent a huge amount of time on community educational projects.
Hanan, who grew up on a kibbutz in Israel, became a Deputy nine years ago and shortly before the pandemic he answered a call from the Board of Deputies for volunteers to become sign up to their local Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE). These are the independent regional bodies which consider the provision of religious education in the area under the jurisdiction of its local authority.
Hanan worked in Yorkshire so he signed up to the Hull SACRE which had no Jewish representation at the time. He recalls: “They were so open to me from day one. I was giving lectures to schoolchildren all over the county on Zoom all through the Covid period about who we are and what we do, because there is not much of a Jewish community left in Hull or in east Yorkshire.”
It was through this involvement that he had an idea to take the revamped Jewish Living Experience Exhibition to Hull. The exhibition, which educates and informs non-Jewish children and adults on the Jewish way of life, is designed to pop up at venues around the country. Hanan says: “I thought it would be a great idea so I just went for it. We found Hull Minster which was a brilliant location. We managed to get security and volunteers – which took about six months to organise. Every day that a school came to visit the exhibition there would be Jewish volunteers there to explain the exhibition to them.
He acknowledges the “incredible” support from Board of Deputies Education Officer Anna Silver and Regional Manager Sara Radivan as well as volunteers from the two Hull synagogues who gave their own time to help during school visits. “Of course it meant a lot of travelling for me and it cost a lot of money but I was in the fortunate position to be able to do it and it was a very enjoyable and rewarding process.”
Despite the effort involved, Hanan has his eyes on another exhibition. “It was so great for the kids who had never met any Jews and who knew nothing about us to realise that we were the same as they were. I’d love to have the chance to do it all again somewhere else.”
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