Celebrating Rosh Hashanah across Jewish Care

09 Sep 2020


Every Rosh Hashanah, we eat apple and honey and ask for a year full of sweetness, goodness and kindness. Traditionally, it is also a time of reflection on the last year and sadly, the coronavirus pandemic is what many of us will remember of the last 12 months. This year, we have learnt to celebrate festivals differently whilst observing as many traditions as possible. Jewish Care has been supporting care home residents, Independent Living tenants, community centre members and supportive communities clients, to prepare and look forward to celebrating the High Holy Days, enabling them to connect with their Judaism and the wider community, physically, spiritually and digitally.

Jewish Care’s Spiritual and Pastoral Lead, Rabbi Junik, says, “Rosh Hashanah is a new beginning for us and also gives us a chance to reflect. For many, it’s a time to spend in prayer as we ask for health and that this should be a sweeter, better year for us.

He says, “Whilst we can’t blow the shofar in the homes this year, there will be a film available for all to see on the Jewish Care website to prepare for the new year. There will also be shofar blowing in care home gardens before Rosh Hashanah so that residents can hear the sound through the windows.

“For many people living in our care homes, especially those living with dementia, hearing the sound of the Shofar blast is the most significant sign that Rosh Hashanah is here. We know that the sounds and tastes of the festivals are sensory reminders help to connect people with their Jewish life. Tasting apple and honey and honey cake again also helps us to observe our traditions and trigger very happy memories of Rosh Hashanah’s gone by with our families.”

There are resources on the Jewish Care website for the whole community to use including a recorded Shofar blowing, messages about Rosh Hashanah, honey cake recipes and pre-recorded synagogue services. This will help Jewish Care residents and members to feel connected to the community over the High Holy Days. They are available at www.jewishcare.org/festivals

As part of Jewish Care’s Meals on Wheels service, the charity has provided over 25,000 meals to the community since lockdown. This has been possible with the help of the army of volunteers who have stepped up to ensure that the charity can support older vulnerable members of the community who are depending on us.

In the run up to Rosh Hashanah, the meals delivered by volunteers will include the traditional treats that come with Rosh Hashanah, such as honey and honey cakes. Jewish Care Community Centre and Holocaust Survivor Centre members will also receive parcels of honey for Rosh Hashanah and can join an online Rosh Hashanah concert, where they will be lead in humming festival tunes on 8 September.  

Mitch Winehouse, who is volunteering for Jewish Care, says, “I’ve been delivering Meals on Wheels since the start of lockdown most days. I love delivering as it’s a vital lifeline to the elderly and vulnerable in our area. It’s great to build up a rapport with these lovely people.” Betty Pam, one of the clients Mitch delivers to, says “The meals are everything to me. I can easily pop the meal into the oven and enjoy a nutritious meal. I look forward to my delivery."

Simone Silver, who is a student and graduated through Jewish Care’s MIKE youth leadership programme, has also been volunteering since the start of lockdown. Simone says, “I am happy to be helping out before University starts. I love having a chat to the clients and checking on them.” She has been delivering meals to Sheila Penfield who says, “The meals are truly a lifesaver. I don’t know what I would do without them. With all my heart, I thank Jewish Care for everything".

The time approaching the New Year is also traditionally a time when one visits parents and deceased relative’s burial stones, to honour them. Jewish Care staff are now able to take a photo of the stone online to share with residents and members of community centres who would usually go to the burial grounds but are now unable to do so. They will also receive support from Rabbi Junik and others during this time.

In care homes, volunteers will be making Kiddush together with us online and have run many discussion groups and online activities in the lead up to Rosh Hashanah as well as card making and flower arranging to create a special atmosphere for the festivals.

Hannah Leston, who is a resident at Otto Schiff care home, used to volunteer at the Sam Beckman Centre for people living with dementia and then volunteered at the reminiscence and discussion groups at Michael Sobell Jewish Community Centre. Her card design has been chosen as one of the organisation’s e-card this Rosh Hashanah.

Hannah says, “I was very pleased to hear that my design was chosen. I’ve always liked art and got a few prizes when I was at school. I’m good with my hands and I enjoy needlework, knitting and painting”.

Jewish Care’s Chief Executive, Daniel Carmel-Brown, says, “We hope that this Rosh Hashanah brings only a happy and healthy new year for us all. We look forward to celebrating Rosh Hashanah and many other bright moments to come, however, we continue to remain vigilant and support and protect our residents and clients during the pandemic. We are only able to do so because of the vital support we receive from the community and to those that have supported us in our greatest hour of need, there are not enough words to thank you for all you’ve done. We hope that you and your families keep safe and well, and that this Rosh Hashanah brings only a happy and healthy new year for us all.”

If you feel that you or a person you care for would benefit from any of Jewish Care’s services, please contact our helpline on 020 8922 2222 or helpline@jcare.org.