UK Zionist Federation chairman makes aliya

Andrew Balcombe will continue to chair the Federation in London while living in Israel on a permanent basis.

andrew balcombe 88 (photo credit: )
andrew balcombe 88
(photo credit: )
Andrew Balcombe wears many hats: he is a successful businessman, the chairman of the UK's Zionist Federation, and a new oleh, depending on the time zone. Last week, he and his wife, Jean, made aliya from London to Jerusalem. Although Balcombe will be living in Israel on a permanent basis, he will continue as chairman of the Zionist Federation in London. During his two-year's as chairman, the UK hosted the largest Yom Ha'atzma'ut concert in the world, with nearly 7,000 participants, and held educational seminars to train young leaders of Jewish communities throughout Europe. Although he has long been a strong Zionist, he moved to Israel for "personal reasons," and not because of ideology, he told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Balcombe and Jean have two of their three children and eight grandchildren living in Israel with them. In discussing the growing trend of young families making aliya from England, Balcombe described a "deteriorating" Jewish community. Many chose Israel because of its "vibrant Jewish environment," he said, and Israel provided a freedom for children to be Jewish and to express it proudly. "In London, "he said, "it's difficult walking the streets wearing a kippa. In Israel you can lead fuller Jewish lives." With most Jews nestled in London and Manchester and the Muslim population in England forecast to reach 50 percent by 2050, he said, "the rest will have to choose assimilation or a squeezed 'middle of the road' Judaism." Balcombe is not the first chairman of the Zionist Federation to move to Israel. In fact, his predecessor, Brenda Kattan, recently came on aliya as well. Now that Balcombe has made aliya, the federation's executive director will be handling the organization's activities on a day-to-day basis; all programing will continue to function and develop as in the past. Balcombe's decision to leave London has created debate in the community. "Many people think I have rejected them," Balcombe admitted. "Others have congratulated me." Nonetheless, Balcombe believes that he has made the right decision for him and his family. He does not desire to be viewed as a role model or a voice of conscience by his colleagues and community members in London, he told the Post, "It's just that I have chosen the Israel route."