In the six weeks leading to Pesach, Reform Judaism is asking all of its 42 Reform communities to take part in the Connecting with Members Telethon. The Telethon is part of Reform Judaism’s Communities that Care Initiative, launched in 2016 to strengthen communities and inspire members.
The telethon involves community members themselves calling other members of their congregations to wish them chag sameach, a happy Passover, ensuring that everyone who wishes has a seder to go to and listening out for signs of isolation and loneliness.
Launching the Telethon, Maureen Lipman said: “Synagogues shouldn’t be about names on membership lists, they need to be about people and relationships. That’s why I am supporting this wonderful initiative from Reform Judaism tackling isolation and loneliness.
“All we are asking members of our communities to do is to phone each other. Have a chat, check people have a seder to go to and see where the conversation takes you.
“It seems so basic for those of us who are constantly juggling phone calls, emails and texts but we know there are plenty of people for whom that phone call might be the only contact they have with someone that day, the only time anyone phones unprompted to see how they are and the only time their synagogue has ever reached out to remind them they need never feel alone.
“Reform Judaism knows communities thrive when relationships thrive”.
The initiative, along with two others focussing on leadership and spiritual practice, was crafted by rabbis, Reform Judaism professionals, community welfare, education and development professionals and lay people in collaborative partnerships. It is supported by Jewish Care and The Fed.
Simon Morris, Chief Executive of Jewish Care said: “Jewish Care is delighted to endorse and support Reform Judaism’s initiative focussing on the challenge of tackling loneliness and isolation in our communities”.
Karen Phillips MBE, Chief Executive of The Fed said: “The Fed is delighted to support Reform Judaism on this initiative tackling loneliness and isolation and is providing Manchester communities with advice and training. Volunteering and befriending is integral to our services and we are delighted that Reform Judaism is encouraging this”.
Lynette Sunderland, Director of Welfare and Life Cycle at Alyth Synagogue said: “Loneliness and isolation can strike at any age. You can be single, married, young, old – whatever circumstance, there may be times when we feel lonely and isolated. Having a welcoming, caring and concerned community should enable us to reach out and extend a listening ear, enjoy each other’s company and bring about moments of joy and comfort – anything that enhances the quality of our lives and makes us feel a part of a whole”.
Rabbi Miriam Berger of Finchley Reform Synagogue added: “It is just too easy to let people slip off anyone’s radar. A simple change of personal circumstances can move one from the centre of the community into its periphery. We must have strong enough connections to notice and caring enough relationships to help bring those people back into the heart”.