Final Word: Why recent events remind us of the importance of community

16 Aug 2017

I like to think that I am a positive person who sees the glass half full, however, even the most positive of people won’t dispute that the last few months have been tough. A series of terrorist attacks, the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, either side of a general election that has caused more uncertainty than the stability it intended to bring. Out of these darkest moments there have been stories of courage, love and ingenuity. I have been moved by the outpouring of individuals who have come together and the community cohesion that is often lacking in the large, impersonal cities we live in.

We feel the impact of uncertain times here at Jewish Care as increasing numbers of people turn to us for support and reassurance. It is a natural response when we feel more vulnerable to turn to our community. Over the last few months we have experienced a continued increasing demand for our services. I can’t put that down simply to recent events but I do believe they have had an impact.

It is not uncommon for us to be approached by older members of the Jewish community who for one reason or another haven’t been connected to the community for some time. They aren’t members of a synagogue and they have few social connections within the community. However, as they become older, frailer and more isolated they feel a need to reconnect to their roots. They know their community is there for them. Somewhere safe they can turn.

And it’s not just in our services where we see members of our community seeking a sense of belonging and together-ness. In June this year 1,100 people came together for our annual fundraising dinner. There was an even stronger sense of community and pride this year as guests heard stories of how we come together to support those who need us. The generosity in the room will, I hope, ensure we can

continue to provide a range of services to all who need them. I am fortunate in my work to see first-hand day in day out what being part of a caring community means. Our thousands of volunteers are at the core of this and only weeks after our fundraising dinner we held our annual volunteer awards ceremony. I left that evening feeling uplifted and inspired by the stories I heard. Our volunteers are the unsung heroes in Jewish Care. They are the glue that holds us together and makes us the special community we are.

If we were to form our opinions of younger people from the media our impressions wouldn’t be great. However, a visit to our annual MIKE awards will make you think again. MIKE is a unique youth leadership programme for 14-18-year-olds run at the Redbridge Jewish Community Centre. The programme and the community centre in Redbridge

continues to be a breeding ground for leaders in our community. A generation of ‘mensches’ who understand from a young age the benefit and importance of giving time to support others. An impressive and caring cohort of young people who are a credit to our community.

The recent election forced the country into an unexpected debate about social care. A much-needed conversation.

As a nation, we have woken up to the realisation that the government can’t meet the full cost of social care. Where we go from here remains uncertain as social care is the elephant in the room most want to keep caged up. My hope is that the debate about the future of social care isn’t left on the doorsteps and that our current government takes forward the game-changer that is needed. What is clear is that social care can only be delivered through fostering partnerships between individuals, families, local authorities and organisations such as Jewish Care.

As I reflect on the last few months, as tough as they have been, I am optimistic. If we remain strong together, recognising and valuing all that is positive in our community, we will be fine.

There is, within our community, more that unites us than divides us. We are a caring community, that is here for those who need us. If you have any doubt you just need to spend time in any of our Jewish Care services. Services that are supported by an army of unsung heroes, those who give up their time to support others, and our incredibly generous supporters. Thank you. You keep my glass full even in the most difficult of times.

Shana Tova, to a peaceful and healthy new year.