The Kindness Project
This isn’t technically a talk more an advertisement for our now third annual Woodside Park Kindness Project.
The period known as the Three Weeks is the saddest period in the Jewish calendar. Customs of mourning are observed during this time to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples. This three-week period of mourning begins on the 17th of Tammuz, corresponding to 6th July this year, with the fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, and concludes on the 9th of Av (27th July 2023) the fast of Tisha B’Av. It’s a time of introspection and denial as a tool to focus the mind.
Different communities have different customs of mourning during this period, including prohibitions on: haircuts and shaving; listening to live music; weddings and other celebrations; and the buying and wearing of new clothes. The intensity of mourning increases from 1st Av until midday on the 10th Av (the period called the Nine Days), when in addition, no freshly laundered clothes may be worn, and meat and wine are not consumed (except on Shabbat).
To elevate this period, we at Woodside Park post a suggested act of kindness each morning to bring joy and a smile to others in your family and the community.
This project under the supervision of our esteemed Rebbitzen Gila, turns the focus from all the things we can’t do, to all the positive actions we can do - such as helping a friend, supporting a neighbour, making time for a little self-care, thinking about the environment and wider community.
The concept is that every morning (except Shabbat) a post will arrive on Woodside Park’s Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp links with a 1-minute video of someone from the community, recorded on their phones, suggesting that day’s act of kindness.
We encourage each person to end their video in memory of someone.
To date almost 50 members of the community (some jointly) have recorded scripts with a kindness challenge for the day.
In an attempt to keep the videos short and consistent, we send each member a short script to read and record on their phones.
But the best part of this project are the emails and messages we receive as feedback from members of how each daily challenge has made them feel, inspired them to act and how people have responded to their kindness…
None of this would be possible without the technical and practical support of Andrea and Jacqueline. And for that I’d like to publicly thank you both.
If you haven’t already and would be happy to participate, please email the shul your details and we’ll be in touch, most of this year’s challenge has already been organised but we are always happy to be super prepared for next year!
I’d like finish by reading a few paragraphs from an article written by the late Dr Rabbi Johnathan Sacks for The Times in 2014
Judaism is a religion of memory. The verb zachor appears no fewer than 169 times in the Hebrew Bible. “Remember that you were strangers in Egypt”; “Remember the days of old”; “Remember the seventh day to keep it holy”. Memory, for Jews, is a religious obligation. This is particularly so when we refer to the “Three Weeks” leading up to the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the two Temples, the first by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon in 586 BCE, the second by Titus in 70 CE.
Jews never forgot those tragedies. To this day, at every wedding we break a glass in their memory. During the Three Weeks, we have no celebrations. On Tisha B’Av itself, we spend the day fasting and sitting on the floor or low stools like mourners, reading the Book of Lamentations. It is a day of profound collective grief.
Though the two are often confused, memory is different from history. History is someone else’s story. It’s about events that occurred long ago to someone else. Memory is my story. It’s about where I come from and of what narrative I am a part. History answers the question, “What happened?” Memory answers the question, “Who, then, am I?” It is about identity and the connection between the generations.
To this day, the Holocaust survivors I know spend their time sharing their memories with young people, not for the sake of revenge, but its opposite: to teach tolerance and the value of life.
One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is the knowledge of where we have come from, the things for which we fought, and why. None of the things we value – freedom, human dignity, justice – were achieved without a struggle. A society without memory is like a journey without a map. It’s all too easy to get lost.
I, for one, cherish the richness of knowing that my life is a chapter in a book begun by my ancestors long ago, to which I will add my contribution before handing it on to my children. Life has meaning when it is part of a story, and the larger the story, the more our imaginative horizons grow. Besides, things remembered do not die. That’s as close as we get to immortality on earth.