For the League of Jewish Women, 75th anniversary is a chance to look forward

5th July 2018

Read the Jewish Chronicle’s article about the LJW’s 75th anniversary here…

As the League celebrates this milestone moment, the women in charge want to create new volunteering opportunities for modern Jewish women

It was the go-to volunteer organisation for the mothers of such famous faces as Matt Lucas, Mike Leigh and Maureen Lipman but today the League of Jewish Women faces new challenges.

Yvonne Josse, the League’s national president, said the charity must adapt in order to engage younger volunteers, or get left behind.

“I’ve been involved with the League for 26 years; it was what you did as a Jewish woman but things have changed.

“I gave up work — because you could in those days — and it ticked the boxes in terms of the type of voluntary work I wanted to do. But, today, women are busier and they have a lot less time.”

Celebrating the League’s 75th anniversary this month, Mrs Josse said it was her mission to create new volunteering opportunities for modern Jewish women.

“My mother was involved, my grandmother was involved, it was what you did. We identified social voids and gaps and did something about them,” she said.

Nowadays, however, “Jewish women who give up work have a commitment to their families. The number of volunteers is diminishing and that is due to the time people have and their social lives being busier”.

While, once, women could regularly devote a full day to volunteering, they now seek “more flexible opportunities” more occasionally, she said.

Over the past 75 years, League women have been pioneers of good causes in the community and further afield.

From campaigning for the right to vote to helping to set up Jewish Care’s meals-on-wheels service and many of its day centres, Mrs Josse believes JLW is the community’s best kept secret.

The League was the first Jewish women’s organisation in the country dedicated to attaining votes for British women and to securing equal religious and communal rights for women within the Jewish community.

“We make a real difference,” Mrs Josse said. “There isn’t a cause out there in the community that hasn’t been touched by our volunteers, but you might not know about it.”

The group was acknowledged earlier this year for the part it played in the first mass immunisation programme in the Western world.

Members worked alongside other volunteer organisations, including the Red Cross, to prevent a polio epidemic in Hull in 1961.

More than 300,000 people in a week were given the then new oral vaccine on a sugar cube.

The group held its 75th AGM followed by a celebration at Great Portland Street Synagogue in Central London last week.

“My mission for the future is to find things that are out there in the community that we haven’t supported before,” Mrs Josse said.

A League woman is someone “who believes she can make a difference and we are best when we are working together.

“And what is unique about us is that we do it without fundraising. We make our money through our subscribers, putting on events for our members, and donations.

“We don’t just volunteer; we are a community of women that support each other. If one member needs help, the others come when they need it.”

The group’s oldest member who still volunteers is 94. According to Mrs Josse, it’s the best way to stay active.

“It is important to keep the brain engaged and it certainly makes you live longer,” she said.