By Leon A Smith
June 28, 2012
A recent trip to Argos established that there has been a considerable run on gazebos this summer! I wonder why this could be? Is it because of the Olympics? Perhaps the Jubilee? Or is it simply because the weather in this country in the supposed “summer months” is just so awful? Planning an outdoor event in the UK is a risky business as Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh can testify. I wonder whether they took out event insurance in case the River Thames pageant had to be cancelled?
Each year Nightingale House holds its Funday in its beautiful gardens. This year was the first for a couple of years because building works made this impossible. The event was back with a bang– some 500 people attended and managed to spend some money in between the fairly frequent and aggressive rain showers. Our Funday is an event which is very important to us, both as a fundraiser and as an Open Day window on what we are doing here at Nightingale House. Many of the visitors that came to us on that day are relatives of residents who have lived at Nightingale House in the past, staff and their families and many visitors from the local area, ie Clapham – aka “Nappy Valley”. Indeed we even advertised our event in that august journal entitled “Nappy Valley”. It was wonderful to see so many members of the local community, who almost exclusively are not Jewish, coming along to support our event bringing their children to benefit from the myriad of activities geared towards younger visitors. We were delighted at the response from the local community.
But support doesn’t stop here. Many of our volunteers are young people who are not Jewish who live locally and are volunteering as part of a college project. They are without doubt the most wonderful volunteers who actively engage with our residents and form in some cases lasting relationships. One doesn’t have to be Jewish to volunteer in a Jewish home.
Yet when it comes to Fundraising the bulk of our fundraising is done within the Jewish community. The database to whom we send mailshots a couple of times of year is almost exclusively Jewish and in the main the charitable trusts which we approach are similarly. It is comparatively rare that we request or receive significant funding from beyond the community – and to me that feels comfortable. I should add that there are one or two notable exceptions to this including the National Lottery and the wonderful City Bridge Trust.
While I am talking about things Jewish and non-Jewish, I recently gave a talk at a conference promoting the work of Nightingale Hammerson and its facilities. When it came to questions I was asked, as I often am, why is it necessary to have a specifically Jewish home? I provided the obvious answer both in terms of religious requirements and very importantly cultural requirements. One of the questionner’s certainly seemed to understand that. He then asked, and he was very surprised at my answer, whether there were restrictions under Equality legislation preventing people from running homes which only admitted one faith. I believe that in some States in America it is indeed the case where there are no homes which can be specifically exclusive for one faith – otherwise they exclude themselves from eligibility for certain aspects of state funding.
Unlike golf clubs, care homes providing care exclusively for members of the Jewish community were not established because Jewish people were not allowed to go into non-Jewish homes. They were established purely to provide a religious and cultural environment in which older Jewish people could practice their religion and feel comfortable culturally.
The author of The History of Nightingale House, which was written some time ago, found Jewish Chronicle archive material referring to the fact that during the mid-1800s some older Jewish people living in the Poor House actually walked the streets of London during Pesach because they could not bear to be forced to eat bread during that period. Religious Jewish people and culturally identified Jewish people need homes such as our own so that they can live their lives Jewishly in the way in which they choose.
There are of course parallels here with the Jewish education system; a key difference however is that Nightingale Hammerson accepts in good faith anybody that comes through its doors requesting care who says that they are Jewish. We do not feel that it is our role to go into the intricacies of whether they can be Halachically defined as being Jewish and we do not scrutinise their Ketubas. Neither by the way do we investigate to find out how many times a year they go to the synagogue.
As I have mentioned before, we run our Homes to the highest common denominator so that it is suitable for the most observant of Jews. It is also an environment in which Jews of all shades of belief can lead a comfortable and relaxed life.
It has taken me a number of words to figure out how I can conclude my writing this week without reference to football. I think I’ve just found it! Jewish football clubs exist primarily both as a social and sports facility for the community. Yet I believe a number of Jewish football clubs do have some non-Jewish players. I wonder whether there is a limit on the number of non-Jewish players they can have? Is there perhaps a quota and/or technically would it be possible to have a Jewish football club which didn’t have any Jewish footballers in it? Just a thought!