Woodside Park Cares
by Esther Shuker
Rebbetzin Gila and friends, Chag Sameach.
Firstly, I would like to thank Deanna for the opportunity to speak to you today for a few minutes about a charity rather close to many of us: Woodside Park Cares.
For those of you who may not know, WSP Cares is the Welfare arm of WSP Synagogue and Sharon Steinman and I are the Coordinators. Our remit is to provide support, guidance and assistance, wherever possible, to our 1,400+ members.
It is exactly a year since I stood here and very sheepishly asked for volunteers for what was to be the revamped Woodside Park Support Network. Our relaunch Shabbat took place on 8th June last year, and since then, thank God, we have been increasing the range of services as well as the number of volunteers helping members of the community. We were overwhelmed with the number of people who came forward to volunteer at that time which proved to us just what a caring community we have.
Of course, the more we do, the more there is to do and the more we wish to do but for this we are always seeking new volunteers who can spare anything from an hour ad hoc to a regular commitment, say, weekly, fortnightly.
As I look round the room, I am delighted to see how many of you are part of our excellent team of volunteers, whether as Team Leaders with the role of organising groups of volunteers or as our core of volunteers; you are all precious. I will not name individuals because it is as a whole unit that we can optimise our energy and impact.
Everyone can be a part of WSP Cares:
Do you know that every week at least one WPS family is affected by a bereavement? Our volunteers provide meals, make up a minyan or are just there for the family.
3 members are in hospital every week. Our volunteers visit them, provide support, transport and aftercare.
18 members need lifts to our Day Centre or to medical appointments. Our volunteers handle this.
Some members are house-bound and need help with shopping and befriending. Our volunteers are always there to help.
If you care and have a little time to spare, please step forward or get in touch via email.
I believe that the beauty of chessed – or kindness - is that sometimes we are the givers and at other times we are the recipients and this is what we at WSP Cares see in reality. It is a wonderful mitzvah to give of oneself; it is often so difficult, however, to be on the receiving end, to be the one asking for help, but, there again, as the asker, we are enabling someone else to do a mitzvah.
Each festival holds the same energy as the original event…Shavuot is the culmination of the Jewish people having left Mitzrayim, Egypt with the mentality of slaves, tasting freedom and then refining themselves until they reached this day where they were in the optimum state to receive the Torah. At that time they became a true people, a community.
Likewise we have just spent the last seven weeks refining ourselves – we could say, from rough stones to polished diamonds, the best versions of ourselves we can be. In this state we can learn together, grow together, work together. Let us work together for the good of our community.
When I looked up the definition of ‘community’, I found it to be the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.
Last week I was in beautiful Portugal, where I was born, and felt very privileged to be able to go to Belmonte which was a centre of the Anusim or hidden Jews.
This, for me, was the quintessential community: for 500 years these people had practised their Judaism, to the best of their ability, in secret. They kept their mezuzot inside the doorpost – and sometimes even in their pockets - so that it would not be seen; they lit their Shabbat candles in cupboards; they would make special foods with strong aromas so that it would smell like pork because they used to be visited at random in order to be caught out… they even devised a special sausage called Jewish sausage which was made of chicken and spices but which was made to look like the pork the locals would be eating. This can still be purchased in restaurants today.
They did whatever they needed to do, for 500 years, without writing anything down, every prayer and liturgy was simply transmitted from mother to daughter verbally. This was a community who lived a life of pretence, but who needed each other for the purposes of marriage and protection from the authorities. It was an awe inspiring and humbling visit.
We at WSP do not have to practise in secret, thank God. Let us all help each other openly and proudly… However little time you have, share some of it with your community.