** This article originally appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, 15th January 2021**
By Simon Rocker.
Linda Turner, co-founder of Mavar, the charity which supports Charedi community members looking to explore new avenues in life has stepped down after seven years as director. Her successor is Amos Schonfield, founding director of Our Second Home, a youth organisation for refugees and asylum-seekers inspired by the example of Jewish youth movements.
Ms Turner said her time at the charity had been “life-changing and life-affirming. I stand in awe of the young men and women supported by Mavar who, despite daily struggles, demonstrate strength, creativity, self-belief and resilience. It’s no easy talk to wrench yourself from everything and everyone you’ve ever known, sometimes with barely a penny to your name, no education or qualifications and a lack of fluent English. Their determination to forge a life of their own choice has helped overcome many a dark moment.”
The charity was founded after a Limmud talk: “Secrets of the Shtetl” highlighting the difficulties of those wishing to lead a life different from the conventional path followed by their family and community.
It offers counselling, mentoring and practical support.
Ms Turner said that “dozens have accessed mainstream education and in 2020 alone, we had members on degree courses in social policy, physics and philosophy, law, information technology, anthropology, environmental sciences, genetics, engineering, medicine, history, Jewish studies, fine art, psychology, education and computer science.”
For Mr Schonfield, “Linda’s vision in establishing Mavar, along with her tenacity in keeping it going, are an inspiration to me and an example to the entire Jewish community”.
Mavar chair Nick Gendler said the new chief executive had “proven leadership skills, the ability to empathise with our members and completely shared values with the charity”.
Mr Schonfield joins from Students Action for Refugees. He was previously outreach lead at Yachad and national director of the Masorti youth movement, Noam. He has a master’s degree in migration studies from Oxford University with a focus on the Satmar Chasidic community.