Shabbat UK, a time to examine what it means to us

23 Oct 2015

“The Sabbath sustains every one of Judaism's great institution. In the synagogue we re-engage with the community, praying their prayers, celebrating their joys, defining ourselves as part of the "We" rather than the "I". – Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Sonia says :

As the community begins its second Shabbat UK, it is a time for us to examine what this means to us as individuals, but also to us as a community.

For many Shabbat is a time to stop, reflect and take a breather from the everyday hustle and bustle. For others it is the time to reconnect with their community after a week of work in the wide world.

But for others, those who are alone, maybe unable to go out or timid of strangers, Shabbat can be either just another day or one that highlights their loneliness within a community.

We are struck by the number of local and national communal events planned this year – we are told more than ever people will be involved in community meals and activities. Activities that encourage families to take a day out together, or invite in a stranger for a Friday night dinner.

However, the challenge as this becomes an established day in the Jewish calendar will be how do we reach out to those alone, how will we connect and engage those who live alone or live within a care setting and may need support and encouragement to be part of not just Shabbat UK but every Shabbat going forward.

The commitment from the community, I believe, is not just to one day of learning and experience but to 52 days of community engagement that makes Shabbat a wonderful experience for those who find themselves missing out on a basic fundamental of Jewish life. Take Shabbat into a care home, pick up somebody from your community and sit with them in the synagogue, adopt an older person within your community to be a regular at your Friday night meals – bring the spirit of Shabbat to all within our community and we really will have reached a definition of ourselves as ‘we’ rather than ‘I’.

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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