Don’t the holidays come thick and fast in the autumn? I’ve already shaken the lulav in the sukkah (the Rabbi suggested it was supposed to encourage the rain, and it worked perfectly!). But before we rush on towards Chanukah, I’d like to take a moment to recap on the charities the Board chose for our Kol Nidre Appeal.
Jewish Children’s Holiday Fund
The Jewish charity in the UK chosen by the Board this year is the Jewish Children’s Holiday Fund. Their aim is to provide Jewish children with the chance of a summer break, whatever their personal or family circumstances. You won’t be surprised to learn that those children who would most benefit from having such a holiday are often those whose family circumstances mean that they cannot afford one. These are the situations in which the Fund can step forward to help. They arrange for children aged between 8-11 to spend two weeks at a residential summer camp. There is a local element to this charity because the site of the camp is in the wilds of Orpington, in Skeet Hill House – perhaps Orpington does look wild when viewed from North London – (although the JCHF accepts applications from Jewish families nationwide, of course). The website boasts that the camp food is kosher and that Shabbat is properly observed. The Fund, which has been going since 1888, has found that the whole family benefits from a child’s having a holiday, so we can consider any contributions to be helping Jewish families as well as Jewish children.
Outside the Jewish Community, but very close to Bromley physically is the 999 Club. The shul has been involved with this organisation for a couple of years now, with several members volunteering to work there. They are based just up the road in Lewisham, running a drop-in centre offering social and practical support for the homeless and those with alcohol, drug, and mental and physical health problems. Currently they get more than 1,300 visits a week from more than 500 people whom they are able to help in many different ways. More specifically, they offer a programme during the winter months for local homeless people: a hot meal together with safe place to stay overnight. With the cooperation of visiting social workers and others, they are able to assist vulnerable people to access the services they need. I recently attended a meeting between shul members and the director, Peter Wood. He is a determined man, setting off for Islington on his bicycle from Bromley after the meeting. He shared with us his ambitious plans to change the centre’s style to a more focused one, serving a smaller group of people, but really getting alongside those people and working with them so that they will no longer need the centre. Many staff members are volunteers, but the Club needs funds to carry on the compassionate and useful work they perform.
Phoebe Leon Day Care Center
For our Israeli-based charity, we have chosen the Phoebe Leon Day Care Center in a Jerusalem neighbourhood with a large number of disadvantaged families. Day care is offered to some local children, over half of whom have been referred by welfare authorities, and there is a social worker on the permanent staff. The Day Centre is a WIZO UK project which works with the whole family of any child attending the centre. Through drama and art therapies (among others) they seek to improve the self-confidence of the children and their families, supporting the parents – and have been able to boost life chances for the children when they go on to ‘big school’. The Center was brought to the Board’s attention by several members who had visited it during holidays in Israel, and who commended its successful approach.
Last but not least, Beit Or. While subscription costs should cover all the day to day things which go on at Bromley, we all know that there are other unexpected expenses. Pumps go wrong, trees need to be trimmed, fences blow over – you’d be amazed! In addition, there are special projects we want to undertake from time to time. For these, we have to rely on your generous donations. Recently, the Rabbi, the Board and the Choir have been discussing the possibility of appointing a professional musical director to work with many different groups in the shul – the Cheder, the Choir – and to help insert more music into services and other events. At this point, the shul’s budget doesn’t include this particular expense, so we would like to put some of this year’s appeal money towards this goal. I should also remind you that another use for these donations is that they enable us to offer more free events.
The Board and I really hope you will consider that one or more of these causes deserves your support, and that you will give as generously as you can. The appeal closes at the end of November so please do send your contributions soon – either with a cheque made payable to Bromley Reform Synagogue and sent to 28 Highland Rd, Bromley, Kent BR1 4AD (with a note saying which charity you wish to support) or you can make a bank transfer.