Elaine Bermitz sits down with Jewish Representative Council Chair Mark Adlestone to discuss the organisation’s direction.
Even before he and his family moved from St Annes to Manchester Mark Adlestone OBE DL was involved in communal affairs. His vision of Anglo-Jewry as one mutually enhancing unit became more of a possibility when, in the early 2000’s, he began to observe what was going on in the second largest Jewish community in the UK. Thirty thousand Jews, served by institutions which were largely unconnected apart from their membership to a Representative Council which was more inward than outward looking.
As the third generation Chairman of Beaverbrooks, a well-established high street jeweller, he was in a position to advise charitable institutions who began to seek his help in changing direction. Among those was Heathlands, one of the largest Jewish residential care homes in the UK, who sought amalgamation with The Fed, its sister social care organisation.
Having carefully examined the drawbacks and advantages of such a merger, the process he proposed became a reality through sale of assets, acquisition of funds and movement of personnel, reorganisation of services and restructuring of volunteers and trustees. None of this was done quickly or easily, but the plans which he proposed resulted in a streamlined, efficient organisation, capable of adjusting to the upsurge in requirements for elderly Jewish care, which has been reflected in the wider society and continues to grow.
Exchanging his position at Heathlands for that of Patron – a role shared only with the late Lady Beryl Steinberg and the Chief Rabbi – he served as the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester and was then involved in Beaverbooks’ centenary celebrations.
In the meantime, having become a Trustee of the Jewish Leadership Council, he was approached to Chair the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region. Another challenge, this time requiring an examination of the Rep Council’s current structure. Mark commissioned this by appointing Pat Jones-Greenhalgh, formerly an interim CEO of Bury Council. In the light of this year long survey and his connections with the JLC and fellow advisor, now CEO, Marc Levy, whose experience of soft diplomacy among MPs left him with personal knowledge of in excess of 200 of the UK’s MPs, Mark considered the challenge of reorienting the JRC.
With a clear mandate by the Council and with the support of 12 handpicked people, this new project began in 2022, having in mind that by 2025 a new partially appointed and partially elected executive would be required and that they would endeavour to support the entire community in a spirit of mutual help, financial assistance, and with connections to all the representatives in the wider community.
Working from the start with the newly formed Alliance of Charedi Representatives is an inspired step, when almost 40% of all Manchester Jews are in that community, and another is to understand the vital need for trustworthy communication between both arms of the faith. Neither can work without one another, but both can work together with respect, a point which the Charedi side of Manchester Jewry has taken firmly on board, attending quarterly meetings and seeking advice as to how to approach secular
By 2026, with continued good governance, the Council will sit firmly between the role of the JLC and the Board of Deputies, as facilitators, communicators, and stakeholders in a thriving, mutually supportive community, proud and secure within the wider community.