Never before have our Jewish Care values been more important

21 Dec 2016

I have recently had the pleasure of celebrating the achievements of our staff at our annual staff awards ceremony. It’s one of the highlights of my year. An opportunity to recognise the learning and development of staff and hear stories about the exceptional commitment of individuals and teams working across Jewish Care.

This year was a record breaking year. We presented 37 long service awards to people who have worked with us for 20, 30 or 40 years. One of whom was Helen. For the past 40 years she has worked in our house keeping services meticulously cleaning the rooms for residents in one of our homes for people living with mental illness. On presenting her award, Helen’s manager spoke of her kindness and dedication to the job, her respect for residents and how she goes the extra mile without ever complaining. Whilst her length of service is quite remarkable, and something to be celebrated, Helen’s commitment to her work and respect for residents is a long way from unique.

Helen is one of our 1,500 strong workforce. A team I am incredibly proud of. One team that represents 71 different nationalities caring for people across our community. What makes our staff team different from others in the social care sector is that not only do we recruit staff based on their skills but of equal importance are their values. 

We are a values driven organisation. Our five values underpin everything we do and set a tone for the way we work as an organisation and how we work with others. Everything we do is underpinned by Jewish values and ethics.

These ethics and values are essentially based on Torah principles. Fundamental concepts such as, ‘love thy neighbor’ and ‘do unto others as you would have done to yourself.’ For 3,500 years, Jews have been telling themselves, their children, and the rest of the world: Be good. Be kind. Be honest. Be ethical. Be moral. They are values that I, and I am sure many of you, have worked hard to install in your children. They are values that now more than ever we need to reinforce across society.

Both the recent election results here, in the UK, and across the Atlantic have given space for individuals and groups of people with racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic views to publically display those views. From spraypainted swastikas and other racist graffiti reported in locations across America the day after the election, to a 57% increase in hate crime reported in the UK the first four days after the referendum.

Both election results have emboldened hate groups, giving them the confidence to express their hatred in a more public manner. The post-election incidents continue as these individuals and groups seem to strengthen in confidence.

One of our five core values is inclusivity. Everyone in our Jewish Care family is as important as the next and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This isn’t just about the way we treat and provide care to our clients but extends across every interaction between staff members, volunteers, residents, day centre members, relatives and the wider community. It is, as far as I am concerned, non-negotiable. In today’s environment this guiding principle is even more important for us.

Outside of our Jewish Care world, my sense is that people are living under greater pressure, generally people are less tolerance and patience is often fray.

In the last few months I have witnessed or heard about this in action; from increased tempers in queues, on the overcrowded train station platform and, I am afraid to say, on a rare occasion in one of our Jewish Care centres. The latter I found particularly difficult as I heard about a dialogue with a member of staff being spoken to by a relative in a way that I would deem as unacceptable and arguably racist.

I am all too aware that people are often coming to Jewish Care at a stressful time in their lives, a time of change, a time of uncertainty. However, I struggle to accept that this can excuse behaviours that are offensive or abusive. Behaviours that do not fit with our Jewish Care values or those that underpin our religion.

I know we are not alone in experiencing this increase of tempers. I have spoken to colleagues in other social care providers and also to communal leaders about this issue and both have reported increases in ‘behavioural issues’. We often hear our clients, elders in our community, say that young people don’t have the respect for adults that they used to have. Maybe it’s the gradual change in people’s attitudes and behaviours they are referring to.

The second of our five values is Integrity. We treat people fairly and as individuals, and are accountable for what we do.

Never before have our values, and these two in particular, been more important to us. I hope that installing these values in our small Jewish Care bubble will have a wider impact beyond our organisation. As I reflect back on our team at Jewish Care I am proud of what we have created. A multi-cultural hotpot of society that works together, guided by values that both ensure excellence in all we do, with integrity and inclusivity at the fore.