Northwood United Synagogue's triplet of good deeds
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Thursday 28th November 2019

Mitzvah Day is a time when the UK Jewish Community seeks to help the wider community through good deeds and actions that can make a difference to our neighbours, local charities and people of all faiths and backgrounds.

This November, Northwood United Synagogue (led by Ingrid Segal, Kim Cohen & Geraldine Cohen), organised a trio of activities that brought joy and satisfaction to many people in the area.

Project One – Small Acts of Kindness

For our first Mitzvah Project we partnered up with a Watford charity, Small Acts of Kindness, to help pack bags with practical gifts that reduce the negative impact of loneliness and isolation on the physical and mental wellbeing of older people in Hertfordshire, particularly those who are cold in their homes.

Our Small Acts of Kindness Warm in Winter gift bags contained items such as a fleece blanket, a thermal hat, gloves & socks, a mug and a pack of hot drinks and soup all packed in a reusable tote bag as well as an information pack with details of local activities and services.  

The Gift bags are then distributed free of charge in Hertfordshire to people identified by the local community as being vulnerable or in need, many of them face the almost unimaginable choice between heating their homes or eating. The gift packs, and the friendly face that delivers it, can help to break the cycle of loneliness and isolation.

We had great fun and were delighted to hear that we were so full of energy that we packed a record number of hot drink packs in one session and they want us back!

Thank you to all our volunteers.   

Project Two – The Manna Food Bank in Watford

Run by the Elim Church in Watford this food bank has over two thousand registered users who come weekly to select from food and cleaning products donated by local supermarkets, companies and individuals.  Northwood US helped in two ways. Firstly, through the collection of food, clothing and other items. We were amazed at the response  - we had mass donations of nappies, baby wipes, shampoo, soap, shower gel, washing powder, window cleaner, bathroom cleaner, deodorant, toilet paper, paper hankies, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shaving cream as well as a mass of tea, sugar, long life milk, jam, spaghetti, baked beans, bottles of soft drinks, sardines, tinned soup, tinned tuna etc. etc.  The icing on the cake, was 80 quilted jackets with hoods.   Every spare corner, cupboard and the store room at the synagogue was full to the brim and there was so much to collect that it had to be picked up in a van !

The second way in which we helped, was on a fine November Wednesday we provided the Elim Church with a team that helped with the unloading of all the inbound goods from donors, and then the sorting of them into crates with one of each item. These crates were then given to the users who started to arrive in a constant stream at 2pm, grateful for the amazing generosity of the donors and the warm welcome from the helpers from the Elim Church.

The team, led again by the indefatigable Ingrid Segal, were exhausted at the end of the day, but mindful that the Elim team do this every day!  Our thanks to the Rev Miller and his team for their unwavering support of those in need and we are now working on ideas to continue supporting this amazing group of people.

Project Three - OASIS LUNCH CLUB AT ELIM CHURCH, WATFORD

The Oasis lunch for rough sleepers is run every Sunday for about sixty to eighty people and organised by the congregation of Elim Church, Watford. Our contribution on Sunday 17th November involved collecting items to create a goodie bag or some basic necessities’ and providing another team of volunteers to help at the Sunday lunch. We started by laying the tables and then watched in amazement as the volunteer cooks prepared a fresh three course lunch in no time at all - accompanied by smiling faces and hearty chatter.

Guests started arriving around 2pm and we then began the task of serving the meals.  After lunch, we were able to talk to the guests about their experiences – and we heard the most amazing stories of survival that we will never forget.  Some of them only have the streets as their home, others live in tents or in basic hostels. They were very open and shared with us the day to day difficulties they have to face.  One of the ladies had been a nurse in the NHS for over 30 years but developed a chronic back condition and could no longer work.  With no income and no family she ended up living in a hostel and relies on good people like the Elim Church to provide one hot meal a week! However, they were all cheerful and delighted to chat with us.  At the end of the day, we gave them all Mitzvah Day Goodie bags and the left over food was put in containers for them to take away. We felt so pleased that were able to shine a bit of light on their lives and that our community was able to help, if only for a day, and by providing all those extra treats. 

Let us hope that this Mitzvah Day brought extra warmth and happiness to the recipients, it certainly brought our community together and gave us all a lot to think about.

By Ingrid Segal