About Community Cares

About US Community Cares

US Community Cares is the welfare arm of the United Synagogue’s Chesed Department. We have over 1000 volunteers in over 40 of our communities, each led by a Care Co-ordinator, offering practical and emotional support to members, every single day.

Whether a home or hospital visit, helping with shopping, bereavement befriending, helping a new mum or walking an elderly member to shul, our fantastic volunteers make an enormous difference to the lives of their members.

Caring during Covid

The amazing work of US Community Cares has never been more necessary than during the Covid pandemic. At the start of the first lockdown, just before Pesach 2020, our communities’ Care Co-ordinators ensured that their teams called all their elderly and vulnerable members and discussed if any support was needed. Co-ordinators then recruited hundreds more volunteers to help meet the increased demands, and they have working hard ever since. Our volunteers collect medication, deliver shopping, enable people to get help from other agencies if necessary, keep in touch over the phone and simply make them feel part of the community, even though they are physically separated.

Delivering food and fresh meals

US Chesed also set up an emergency-response food distribution centre at the start of the pandemic. Our Care Co-ordinators and volunteers worked closely with staff to ensure that everyone who needed basic food and other household essentials received them. We have since packed and delivered thousands of ‘Essential packages’ to those unable to get out or receive any other help. We also delivered 1200 ‘Shabbat in a Box’ packages of food and educational material across 36 communities.

We continue to deliver 120–150 food parcels every week to those in serious need, tailored to each family’s individual requirements whenever possible. We also have teams of US Chesed volunteers cooking meals and soups in synagogue kitchens.

How US Community Cares works

Over 40 of our communities have their own US Community Cares group, led by a Care Co-ordinator. The support that each group offers is based on the needs of their membership and the resources available. They are supported by the US Chesed Department, which also helps those communities that cannot recruit their own teams.

US Chesed provides induction training programmes throughout then year for all community care volunteers. Specialist training is provided for Co-ordinators, covering topics such as safeguarding, leadership and supervision. Courses are generally held both centrally and in local communities, with volunteers from neighbouring shuls coming together for training. However, during the past year all our training has been carried out on-line.

Each year we have a Chesed Conference enabling volunteers to get together (usually in person but last year virtually) to hear a whole range of speakers on subjects such as mental health, bereavement, food poverty etcetera.

US Chesed also provides guidance to volunteers when dealing with complex cases and signposting to a whole range of specialist organisations when required.

Jewish festivals

US Chesed is particularly conscious of our more vulnerable members over Jewish festivals. We deliver Rosh Hashanah cards and honey cakes to those who may be isolated, unwell, recently bereaved or elderly. It is a gesture to show that we care for all our members, particularly those who may not be able to get to shul. Many communities also telephone their older members at this time of year to see how they are, to wish them a Happy New Year and to see if they need any assistance from their local welfare group. Similarly, before Pesach, telephone calls are made and we send out food parcels and/or vouchers to those who are unable to afford the costs of Pesach.

In 2020 we delivered over 1000 Pesach parcels – an increase from 600 in 2019 – and over £15,000 worth of supermarket vouchers, plus 78 ‘Rosh Hashana in a Box’ packages, a very tightly targeted scheme to those who were extremely vulnerable.

Join US Community Cares!

We can only develop our Community Care groups with your help. Most communities are in desperate need for additional volunteers. Even if you can only spare half an hour or an hour, please do consider giving your time to your local community. Please get in touch and we can tell you more and link you to your local group. Call us on 020 8343 5688 or email chesed@theus.org.uk

Stillbirth Support Group

US Community Cares also runs a small Stillbirth Support Group which offers help and support to men and women who have suffered a stillbirth birth. For full details, please click here.