UK Older People's Day (Part 8)

11 Nov 2014

Shabbat – the pause that refreshes

Sonia says:

Well UK Older Peoples’ Day 2014 has now been and gone. We have launched our handbook for supportive communities and celebrated a month of Jewish festivals in many different ways with people who come into touch with all our services. This past weekend, thanks to the energy and vision of Jo Hyams, we invoked memories of something so fundamental to our community that we often forget how important it is - Shabbat or the Sabbath.

Whilst communities all over the world found interesting ways to celebrate and connect people to a Shabbat experience, the whole concept often forgot or did not reach those in our community who have long histories of family Shabbat celebrations but who, through circumstances, often now spend Shabbat alone.

Shabbat with Jewish Care, we hope, reignited memories amongst the frail and marginalised in our communities and engaged people from across the Jewish religious spectrum with people who have fought to retain their Jewish identity and for whom the family atmosphere of Shabbat has been lost through illness, disability, the weight of caring responsibilities, and loneliness. Hundreds of people from our care homes, community centres and specialist services had a wonderful weekend of meals, singing and nostalgia.

More importantly maybe we also reconnected community members to the core Jewish values of caring for our own, respecting the elderly, and the sanctity of family life.

From challah baking either with other community members or in our residential homes, to Friday night dinners adorned with table centre pieces made by members, residents and local children, to the campus wide Shabbat lunch in Golders Green supported by the Kesher community and inspired by their Rabbi, we heard stories of Shabbat long ago, preparations in the East end of London and challah baking in Eastern Europe.

Those who joined us told us they were uplifted by the members and residents who use our services and felt it was a privilege to have been asked to connect to Shabbat in this unique way.

The challenge we now lay down for all Jewish communities is - don't let this be a once a year or once in a lifetime event for you or those at Jewish Care. When you lay your Friday night table remember those you met, the way you connected with them and how they connected you to your Jewish values, and commit to make this a regular event for both you and them.

Sonia Douek is Head of volunteering and community development at Jewish Care and has developed a strategy for the organisation that has seen the growth of volunteers in the organisation reach 3,000 people.

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