For close to a decade I have had the privilege of leading one of the most exciting interfaith organisations anywhere. With Director Stephen Shashoua, and then Phil Champain, I have seen inspiring individuals dedicate themselves to the much needed work of bringing people together and support them to build more peaceful communities of understanding. As I get ready to leave, the nostalgia and reflective thinking kicks in.
I started with 3FF in 2008 when the programmes were still “incubating”. The team was small (Stephen Shashoua, Daniella Shaw-Gabay, Karsten Van Sander, Sana Saleem, Debbie Danon, and Miriam Feldmann Kaye in Israel) and we were working things out together.
We were pushed forward by our drive, enthusiasm and Sir Sigmund’s daily “what’s going on up there?” meetings.
Stephen and I were given the freedom I can’t imagine I’ll ever have again in my career. We knew our remit, initially to bring together Muslims, Christians and Jews, later to include people of all faiths and beliefs. We had a few grants to deliver, but mostly it felt like we were tasked with “making it work”. And we all took that incredibly seriously.
I remember my first years at 3FF as ones of great creativity. Trying out ideas to see what worked and what we could learn from. I’m not going to share all our mistakes, we made a quite a few, but we really did learn more from those than when things went well. We said yes to almost every invite, and we all ended up in some unusual places – including 10 Downing street, Buckingham Palace and a pyramid in Kazakhstan. We built relationships of trust with people and organisations. We tried lots of different ways to bring people together, sometimes publicly and sometimes quietly when it was needed. As a team we worked through the pain that comes when international incidents affect communities here, sharing our personal thoughts and those of people from our communities. We tried to channel our chats into resources and activities, some of which still form the basis for 3FF’s methods. We did a lot of listening.
When I look back I think mostly about the atmosphere we created and the people who have made 3FF work. With inspiration from my youth group background, when given a position of leadership in an organisation I wanted to try to make 3FF model the world we wanted to create.
With Stephen Shashoua, and many other amazing people over the years, we worked to build an organisation that placed diversity and respect at the heart. We found, and were found, by scores of amazing people who all left their mark and have gone on to other places.
We were supported tirelessly by our amazing trustees, firstly led by Sir Sigmund, whom I miss but whose presence I feel strongly in all that we do, and later by Michael Sternberg, under whose leadership 3FF has flourished. We also had support from lots of others from the interfaith and education fields, as well as funders and donors, who were willing us on.
And in that time we worked with more than 100,000 people, whose stories and experiences have left their mark on 3FF and on me.
So now it’s the end; I hope, no, I know that our work has made a difference. There is one thing that has certainly changed, and that’s me. Leading 3FF for the last decade has challenged me, and made me grow in ways I could not have imagined. I will take all I have learned to my new role at the Centre For London.
So there is only one thing left to do, and that is to say thank you to you all. It’s a small thing, but please accept it as a token of my appreciation for all that you have done to help me. Anything that I have done is because you have helped me to do it.