Shabbat at Jewish Care

21 Dec 2016

It is the Jewish in Jewish Care which makes us different from any other social care provider. Never is this more evident than on Shabbat which, for our clients, means far more than kosher meals and access to synagogue services. It is the feeling of being part of a community with a shared Jewish experience that makes Shabbat different to other days of the week and gives Jewish Care clients a sense of belonging.

Jewish Care’s Chief Executive Simon Morris comments: ‘When I get to spend time over Shabbat in a Jewish Care resource I know it will be a special Shabbat for me: one that reminds me what sets us apart from other social care providers and makes me proud to be part of a loving, caring community full of rituals and traditions.’

From pre-Shabbat activities at day centres, to Friday night candle lighting and dinner at residential care homes, to volunteer-led Shabbat services and visits, there is something meaningful and engaging for Jewish Care clients across all levels of observance.

At Clore Manor in Hendon, Hasmonean High School boys have been leading the Saturday morning Shabbat services for some 16 years.

Social Care Co-ordinator at Clore Manor Sharon Arad explains: ‘It began with a group of four or five boys coming in every Saturday to make a minyan. After a few years we decided to formalise the arrangement, with their Year 11s coming in each week to take the Shabbat service. We also get a group of Hasmonean girls arranging the Kiddush, getting it sponsored and coming in to prepare it.’

‘Even the less religious residents look forward to it. While they may not go to shul, they enjoy having the youngsters in and hearing the singing as the Kiddush is made in all the lounges.’

Benji Shebson, is the youngest of four brothers to have all taken their turn leading the service.

He says: ‘While the residents differ in their levels of observance, the majority really enjoy us being there and many of the relationships continue beyond pupils finishing Year 11. Personally, I love hearing some of the amazing stories the residents tell. One resident I have struck-up a friendship with, was a part-time actor who has been in Star Wars. I love hearing his stories and he loves telling them. I would genuinely say I call him a friend now.’

Jewish Care’s residential homes have an open door to the community. The synagogues in Jewish Care’s homes often become a focus for bringing the community together and family members are actively encouraged to attend services with their relatives living in the homes.

One Lady Sarah Cohen resident, who attends the Wohl Synagogue at the Betty and Asher Loftus Centre every week, says: “The services are so wonderful. I don’t know what I’d do if we didn’t have the Shul on site as I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere else. So many people come and join in who don’t live in the home which makes it feel like a real community.”

Joseph Malinsky, a sixth former at Wren Academy in North Finchley comes in to Lady Sarah Cohen most Saturday mornings. What began as a short volunteering commitment for his Duke of Edinburgh Award programme three years ago, is now a regular part of his Shabbat.

‘Many of the residents are in wheelchairs and I help take them into the synagogue, put their tallit on, take them up to the bimah if they are called up and enable them to be part of the service. There are a few of us who help, of all ages. My father often comes along with me.’

‘I think we get as much out of it as the residents do. Some of them are living with dementia and are not always very responsive, but then when I bring them into the service and they hear the brachot I see the recognition on their faces. It’s a memory for them which gives them a sense of self and belonging.’

Saturday afternoons, while less structured than the mornings, are another perfect opportunity for visits from the wider community.

For the last year, GIFT has organised an initiative for groups of teenagers to walk to a variety of Jewish Care resources to spend Shabbat afternoon with residents.

At Selig Court in Golders Green, a new Saturday afternoon Havdalah programme is being organised by a graduate of Jewish Care’s Lay Leadership initiative, Shoshi Silverblatt.

Shoshi explains: ‘As part of the lay leadership programme, a group of us spent a year and half making monthly visits to different resources to really get to know Jewish Care, with a view to getting involved and seeing where our individual strengths could most make a difference.

‘For me, fostering the “Jewish” in Jewish Care fitted in with my lifestyle and knowledge. The Havdalah ceremony at the end of Shabbat is very visual and beautiful. I thought residents would really enjoy a group of us coming in for some afternoon activities, culminating in Havdalah in the winter months.

‘We timed our first visit with Shabbat UK, beginning with a pre-Shabbat Challah bake on the Friday, then a group went back for Friday night dinner to sing a bit and chat to residents. We returned on Shabbat afternoon to have tea and do a little quiz on Jewish traditions, before finishing with the Havdalah Service.’

Lulu (Reine) Arwas, 94, a resident at Selig Court, says: ‘It was a very nice experience which I enjoyed because I understood more than ever before the meaning of Havdalah.’ Simon Morris adds: ‘It is the enthusiasm of our dedicated volunteers which enables Jewish Care to make Shabbat such an uplifting and engaging experience, for our diverse range of clients, their family members and the community beyond.’

Do you have time on Shabbat to visit a Jewish Care resource? There are a number of ways you can get involved from running services to helping at meal times or supporting our new Havdalah programme. For more information contact the volunteers team on 0208 922 2405 or email