By Jess Nyman
The Makor Hayim community is built on five values, one of which is ‘chesed’ - loving kindness. Our community code of conduct says that we will be ‘radically relational’ and build a community of kindness, care and friendship, showing up for each other’s joys and struggles, investing time in getting to know one another and looking after ourselves.
And what does this mean for us in practice? We have a small chesed team who meet monthly to plan events and come up with new ideas about how we can support each other, as well as a much wider group of community members who get involved in acts of chesed on a regular or ad-hoc basis, but to make this value a reality we need everyone in the community to take a role in chesed.
As a team we play a particular role around key life cycle moments: when someone has a baby, we organsie a food rota - and this requires people to make and deliver meals. When someone experiences a bereavement, we organise meals to be made and dropped off for the shiva nights and have set up a twice weekly kaddish group which all of the community are invited to participate in. When someone is unwell or struggling in some way, we will be in touch to see if there is anything that they need or send a card, although in the future if we are able to recruit more volunteers we would like to be more able to do the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim - visiting the sick (there have obviously been some challenges to this during the pandemic). During the first wave of Covid-19, we identified people who may need additional support and organised telephone check-ins and tech support to help everyone get access to Zoom services.
But we don’t want to only be radically relational and kind at times of need, we also sent birthday cards to everyone in the community for a year to celebrate everyone’s milestones - no matter how big or small. Although we love the idea, we have struggled to recruit enough volunteers to keep this up going forwards, but have made other opportunities to connect and develop friendships such as through the Hannukah Mystery Maccabee gift exchange and organising volunteers to bake and deliver cakes around key Jewish holidays. We have also organised several online intergenerational teas where older members of the community have shared their life stories with the community. Again, this takes people volunteering to share their experiences and needs volunteers to interview, record and organise the events.
We have had so much positive feedback about the difference these activities have made, sometimes just receiving a card and knowing that the community is thinking of them, as well as real friendships and connections that have been made.
If you would like to get more involved in any of the activities described above or have your own ideas we would love to hear from you - contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill in this very short survey which we use to help build a list of people we can call on for ad-hoc chesed activities.