‘DO we stay or do we go?” “Surely the signs are there — we should get out now?” “I don’t want to regret staying here if I could have left”. “For the first time in my life, I am seriously considering leaving the country”
These are some of the things which I heard being said to me in shul over the recent High Holy Days.
They are signs of a growing uncertainty, reflected in recent polls.
Is this just bluster? Is it fear feeding on itself? And after the horror of the Pittsburgh murders, is there a fear of living a Jewish life anywhere in the world?
Most people who think rationally are divided into two camps. Of course, there are also people who do not think rationally.
One of my neighbours in shul spent musaf on Rosh Hashana telling me that Jeremy Corbyn is a “Jew hater” who will roll back our protection for shechita and brit mila and abolish Jewish schools.
He seemed deaf to my trying to persuade him that there is not a single political analyst in the Jewish community or elsewhere who believes that this is his policy.
He displays an irrational fear and is not representative.
The first camp are those who have decided, for policy reasons, that they will not stay here at all if Labour under Corbyn is in power, irrespective of what policies they pursue.
But the second camp is the one that says “this is our country. We are going nowhere — we are staying here and continuing to make a contribution to British and Jewish life as our community has done for the last 400 years”.
I am in that camp.
I have the same gritty determination not to be driven out from my country as the community of Pittsburgh is having to show in defiance of the hatred that resulted in the gun attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Shabbat.
We all can choose to respond in our own way. But I have found myself becoming more determined to ensure the continuity of my community.
And I have made a decision to invest in the future of this community by including in my will a legacy gift to Jewish charities.
I am now 52 years old. Since I have been feeling my age, my wife and I have just completed the revision of our wills. It was high time we created new wills, with two of our children over 18.
We also felt that we wanted to make a gift in our wills which would benefit charities after we had gone. We made a specific choice that it would be Jewish charities which should benefit from our estates after we have passed.
It seems odd to be making such a decision now, with our community seemingly under threat and people talking about leaving the country.
But for us, it seemed the natural thing to do. We are determined that there will still be a vibrant and secure Jewish community in the next and future generations.
So our gift enables us to make an investment in the Jewish community of the future. It is our vote of confidence in the resilience and longevity of our community.
It will ensure that our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the benefit of our community for many long years into the future.
It allows our love for the community to flow down to the next generation and be evident many years after our passing.
We have pledged part of our legacy to an Israel-based charity, and part to a charity focused on the UK community. In that way, we feel we have sent a clear message. We are going nowhere. We are here to stay.
We love our community and we love Israel and will continue to help it to thrive after our time has come.
Charities will receive vital funds at a point in the future — hopefully many years away — when they will need it.
That is what a legacy gift can do. And I encourage anybody thinking of making a will to go ahead and do so and send a message of your confidence in our future by leaving a gift to a Jewish charity.
There are all sorts of financial benefits of doing so. As long as you leave a charitable gift equivalent to at least 10 per cent of your estate, under current rules the amount of your gift triggers a lower rate of tax on your remaining estate, as well as the whole amount of the charitable gift being deducted from your estate.
It is worth doing from a tax perspective. And it gives you the immense satisfaction of being able to tell all those who say that our community is being driven out of the UK that we are putting down even deeper roots and ensuring that the next generation continues to benefit from what we have been able to achieve in our lives.
It was such a natural decision for us. That is not because I happen to be a community professional, but rather it is because we love our country. We love our community. We want to support a vibrant communal life for as long as we are able and then for longer still.
I strongly recommend you to look into doing the same yourself. This is Jewish Legacy Month, which the Jewish Leadership Council is proud to support.
The website jewishlegacy.org.uk gives you information about how to leave a legacy, about how charities can make it easy for you to do so, and some of the tax benefits of doing so.
Our decision has given us such immense satisfaction. It will also benefit the charities that we have selected which one day, hopefully long into the future, will get a notification that they have received a gift from people called Joanna and Simon Johnson.
And someone else will benefit from our memory.
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