Be a player not a spectator in times of crisis

Jewish soldiers in Sunderland whilst they were on Pesach leave in 1940.  Saul's grandfather, is in the middle on the back row.  (Credit: Saul Taylor)
Jewish soldiers in Sunderland whilst they were on Pesach leave in 1940. Saul's grandfather, is in the middle on the back row. (Credit: Saul Taylor)

Last Thursday, many of us briefly stepped outside and gave an unprecedented show of support for our incredible NHS staff and volunteers.  It was extremely moving and one of those special moments that will live in our memory, long after this crisis is over.

However, after the 5 minutes, I went back into my house and something didn’t feel right.  In life we are taught to always show appreciation, but as Jews and as young Jews, we need to do more.

I am reminded of a sports analogy that was used by the Lubavitcher Rebbe z’’l.  He talked about a sports game, where there are players and spectators.

Spectators will cheer the team and try to lift the spirits, but the gamechangers, the ones who really make the difference, are the players on the pitch.

A year ago, our family sadly said goodbye to my Grandfather and our hero, Lt. Col. Mordaunt Cohen MBE z’’l.

In 1940, a hostel was setup in his home town of Sunderland, with girls from the Kindertransport.  He learnt, first-hand, about the horrendous suffering of the Jews in Europe.  He was not willing to be a spectator: he had to be a player.

Mordaunt Cohen in November 1941, in his British Army uniform

He closed his legal practice and aged 22 he volunteered for military service.  It was a decision that defined him and his generation, as 60,000 of his fellow young Jews joined the war effort.

That time has come again, when our community and country needs our help.  The scale of people volunteering is inspiring, with 750,000 already signed up to help the NHS.

There are some amazing stories in our own communities.  My friend told me that in her community in Golders Green, younger members are teaching older members how to use Zoom by giving instructions through letterboxes.  Bushey United Synagogue has an army of 200 volunteers calling older members and delivering much needed supplies.

Many people are giving their professional services for free, as families struggle with losses of income.  Others have set up local support groups on WhatsApp to help as and when necessary.

With all this being done, we cannot be complacent.  There are still more opportunities to volunteer and step up.  There are ways to help, even if you cannot leave your home.  Even by simply calling someone who is vulnerable, you are potentially making a big difference.

I urge anyone who is able to do so, to help.  If you are looking for inspiration, please call your local Shul/Rabbi.  This is our time to get on the pitch.


About the Author
Saul Taylor is a Trustee of the United Synagogue
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