The past year has taught us many things about our community – our values, our resilience and our ability to make a difference. As a recent Leeds Jewish Representative Council survey revealed how local organisations valiantly stepped up to the challenge, here we document those wins, big and small, and the valuable lessons learned along the way.
Leeds Jewish Welfare Board
With Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, flexibility was key, as it was forced to quickly adapt its services, moving 40 staff to home-working and hosting a 30-strong event programme online. One-to-one visits and telephone support helped 400 people on a monthly basis, and new services were created to respond to an increase in need, not least an additional 200 counselling and support service sessions. It kept the community fed with low-cost takeaway and meal deliveries, its donate a dish campaign offering a shabbat meal to those who needed one most. The cost of keeping users COVID-secure is one that is often overlooked, with the total bill for keeping the community safe across the organisation exceeding £60,000. With plans put in place before the pandemic being tested to their limits, LJWB were able to come out of lockdown strong.
Makor Jewish Culture
Makor has learned that it can be flexible and creative, educating audiences to alternative ways of participation. Drastically increasing its online programme, offering a staggering 28 Zoom events in 2020, led to a welcome increase in audience reach and profile. The Zoom effect has not only allowed it to present speakers it may not have normally been able to reach, but community members too. United Hebrew Congregation The UHC team has been busy throughout lockdown, including for younger members – running festival events such as Rosh
Hashanah baking and Purim magic shows, to online arts and crafts sessions. In addition, they have reached out to members and the wider community with take-home kiddushim over the Chagim, ‘lunches with love’, and meals to those students isolating at local universities. The office has made regular phone calls to congregants and the shul has successfully kept in touch with them from a distance.
Community Security Trust
The Jewish security charity provided guidance on security for online meetings to combat ‘Zoom bombing’ and offered advice to synagogue security officers as communal buildings reopened. It also hosted a series of online self-defence training sessions for women in response to safety concerns following the murder of Sarah Everard, reaching over 2,000 people nationwide. Its Crowdfunder campaign raised £4.2 million and as part of the Government Security Grant, 60 communal locations across the UK, including three in Leeds, received almost £2 million to cover the cost of major security improvements.
The Jewish education centre led a number of sweet campaigns to help the community through tough times, from baking for carers to providing hundreds of goodies to the elderly residents of LJWB for Purim and VE Day. Once restrictions loosened, the team offered isolated teens much-needed social opportunities from cholent Kiddush for the boys, to Shabbat afternoon groups and Bat Chayil classes to keep the girls connected. It was great to see cross-communal collaboration, with Kollel teaming up with The Zone and other organisations to
provide support for struggling teens, including volunteering opportunities and Shabbat meals for isolating students – just one of the bridges where the community and university were brought together. It has even made plans to start an Ofsted registered community creche to fill a gap in the community. Seeing people through the good times and bad, it has welcomed new families to the area with food packages and
phone calls to help them settle in, as well as leading online memorial services for those who have sadly passed.