Rosh Hashanah is a time to count our blessings

Jewish families around the world come together for Rosh Hashanah, but for those in crisis the season can be an isolating and stressful time of year.

Financial and social deprivation touches all Jewish communities, not just Charedi ones. Bereavement, family breakdown or a job loss can quickly lead to a seemingly stable domestic environment unravelling.

With it comes shame and stress, with parents embarrassed or afraid to admit the true depth of their problems to their children, family or friends.

Each week, GIFT helps feed some 2,000 people in London and Manchester for whom making ends meet and being able to afford basic staples has become a desperate challenge.

At festival time, the challenge is even more acute, when the wish to maintain traditional forms of observance brings greater expense.

Requests to GIFT for assistance spike and it’s at this time of year that we make a special effort both to help families celebrate the new year and feel a valued part of a community, so they can look forward to the next year with hope rather than despair.

GIFT’s Rosh Hashanah packages include basic items such as pasta, cereal, tinned tuna and fruit and vegetables, but will also include kiddush wine, challahs and candles.
As one London mother we help told us: “What you do makes me feel privileged to belong to a community like ours.”

GIFT’s ethos is to educate young people about the joy and impact of giving, to ensure future generations show compassion and active support for others in every aspect of their lives.

Alongside its educational programmes, GIFT also puts these principles into action, providing practical help for those who have lost their jobs or are unable to work through age or infirmity.

Some are single parents, some have suffered domestic abuse and many find it difficult to admit the extent of their personal problems to themselves, let alone anyone else.

Families and individuals sometimes come directly to GIFT, while others are referred by agencies such as Norwood, Jewish Care, JWA, JAMI or Jewish Blind and Disabled, all of which do excellent work.

But when the front door closes and a parent has to try to make a family meal with little or nothing in the cupboard, the help GIFT provides makes the difference.

As another recipient wrote: “It brings me to tears sometimes when I am so low as to how to feed the family properly. People have no idea what a difference it makes to those who do not have and cannot provide for their own family.”

However, without our donors and volunteers, none of this could happen.

At every stage, from the food deposited in GIFT’s boxes at kosher stores across London and Manchester, to the collection, packing and delivery of the food packages, the role of volunteers is key.

Volunteers also help to relieve some of the burdens and stresses of families, with everything from homework and tuition to child care.

It’s clear how much the volunteers also benefit from their involvement, setting an example also to their friends and family.

In the words of one young volunteer: “Just as I have given to GIFT, the charity has also given back through teaching me how lucky I am.”

To find out about volunteering or to receive help, email in confidence. GIFT’s fundraising dinner is on 9 October – please join us to show your support.

About the Author
Jon Benjamin is Chief Operation Officer at GIFT
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