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Pitch Up: Community Voices – Jewish Care

Jewish Care: A conversation between Claire Mead, Jewish Museum London & Daniel Carmel-Brown, Jewish Care

Museum: To start us off, who are you and what do you do as an organisation?

Carmel-Brown: I’m chief executive of Jewish Care, the largest health and social care charity for older people in the Jewish community in the UK. We provide a range of support services, mainly for older people, people with physical disabilities, mental health needs, Holocaust survivors and, refugees in London and the South East.

Jewish Care has created a place for those in the community who rely on our support. And it’s also a way of enabling people to express their Jewish identity with the community, be it supporting or caring for people living in our residential care homes and retirement living apartments, or attending our community day centres; services that are designed to connect people to each other in the Jewish community. So they’re central in many older people’s lives in terms of expressing their connection to the community.

Volunteering is at the heart of what we do. We couldn’t care for and support around 10,000 people a week without the exceptional commitment of well over 3500 volunteers.

Museum: Regarding 2020, did the pandemic change your relationship with your community?

Carmel-Brown: In the early part of the pandemic, many of our volunteers had to shield as most are people in their 70’s or 80’s. So, I think for some volunteers their role just changed and they pivoted into doing something different, like our befriending services. Only since the start of the pandemic, our volunteers have made over 65,000 calls to older, isolated people.

But we also reached new volunteers; furloughed individuals, students – those who found themselves available and with time to now volunteer. Volunteering wise, we definitely reached out to different people in different ways.

Many of our services transformed, namely participating in a whole range of online programming and activity. Interestingly, we reached people through that digital programming that we wouldn’t ordinarily reach through the physical environment. When our physical facilities reopen, we will continue to provide all of that online and virtual programming as a supplement to everything that we’ve done historically, because it allows us to reach out further into the Jewish community.

Selecting an object

Museum: Tell us more about the objects that you’ve picked.

Carmel-Brown: We’ve chosen a Memory Box which explains the importance of memory in the lives of the people that we work with, particularly to stimulate reminiscence through the senses for those people living with dementia. Memory boxes are part of the fabric of our day to day life if you walk into any one of our care homes, outside of everybody’s bedroom, you will see memory boxes where residents can their place photographs and items; it’s one of the ways that distinguish the bedroom as theirs so that they know that that’s their room.

The oldest item is a book from our predecessor, the Jewish Board of Guardians with the signatures of attendees at a meeting of the Jewish Board of Guardians in 1890. Jewish Care is a merger of the Jewish Welfare Board and the Jewish Blind Society. We’ve included this book for its deep rooted sense of history and out of gratitude to our predecessors, mainly volunteers, who established the infrastructures that make us what we are today.

The sensory experiences of the trigger memories for people about their past experiences of Chanukah. We use the Chanukiah as an example of something that triggers the sense of Jewish identity and Jewish life for people in our services. There is a Jewish thread that runs through everything we do. We’re not just called “Care”. We’re called “Jewish Care”.

There’s a series of photographs that we’ve also included in the Memory Box. One of a 1990 meeting of the Jewish Welfare Board just before the merger. It includes Lord Michael Levy,our Life President.

From 1970 there’s a photo encouraging new volunteers to join us to deliver Meals on Wheels. Alongside this is a photo of an older member of the community in Hackney receiving a meal being delivered by a volunteer. When our physical facilities closed in March 2020, Meals on Wheels became a kind of pillar of our services, because of course, many people were used to coming to our facilities to eat. We were now having to deliver meals to people and have delivered over 65,000, hot kosher frozen meals with an army of dedicated volunteers that have enabled us to do that.

The importance of this service is summed up by the 4th picture, a real Covid-19 image – Sadie and Fred, a couple receiving a socially-distanced Meals on Wheels delivery by volunteers in PPE during the pandemic

The final photo is special: HRH Prince William was our VIP guest of honour at our 25th anniversary in 2015. Here, he’s meeting Freddie Knoller Nala, a Holocaust survivor, resistance fighter and educator, who turned 100 this year. Freddie, of course, is well respected and renowned and well respected in the Jewish community. And we wanted to make sure that he had the opportunity to, to be greeted by Prince William; The photo also shows Simon Davies, is an extraordinarily dedicated Jewish Care volunteer in our fundraising team and a resident our home for people living with physical disabilities as well as Max Bianconi, who is currently our digital engagement lead, supporting members of the community to connect digitally with other people participating in our online Jewish Care Presents programme. So it felt like a really appropriate image to share given both the history and also what’s going on currently as well.

The final item is the quintessential English cup of tea – for us tea’s an important way of connecting people to each other into their community. I imagine if I counted up the numbers of cups of tea that are served in Jewish Care resources it would probably run into the millions every year. We even have a supportive communities tea party service.  But of course, it signifies the ways in which people can connect and talk to each other in a very informal way.


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