Ministers get to grips with credit crunch

By Jay Grenby and Jonathan Kalmus, October 10, 2008

Rabbis have used their Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur sermons to urge congregants to draw on the long Jewish history of overcoming adversity to meet the challenges of the credit crunch. But at the same time, synagogue-goers were reminded of the need to maintain support for charities in a difficult financial climate.
Addressing worshippers at the West London (Reform) Synagogue, Rabbi Mark Winer observed that in facing "the worst financial crisis since the 1930s' great depression - what many have described as the economic equivalent of 9/11 - many of us are wondering about our jobs, our retirement funds, whether we can pay the mortgage on our homes, or send our children to university".

Nonetheless, it was important to maintain an ethical approach in all transactions, whether personal or business; to not let economic setbacks become a rationalisation for cutting back on charity, and to remember that Judaism is based on faith and optimism. "Even if it may be bad for us this year, it can and will be better for us next year, and if not next year, then the year after that."

At Mill Hill United Synagogue, Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet believed that shuls the world over were fuller than usual for the festivals as those "feeling the pinch came in search for meaning". But he questioned why people only "came knocking on heaven's door" when they were desperate.

To counter the economic meltdown, he advised congregants to maintain good credit in a different realm by investing more heavily in their spiritual welfare. They should "pray a little more frequently; give a little more tzedakah; undertake a new mitzvah and enhance the overall spiritual fabric of our homes".

South Manchester minister Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz told his Yeshurun congregation that the world would be spiritually wealthier for charitable endeavour. "Sitting on capital with nothing to achieve with your money isn't being rich. Our lives are rich by giving, because we make our world a better and richer experience for all."

Radlett United minister Rabbi Ariel Abel said the essence of teshuvah (repentance) on Yom Kippur was to "recapitalise. This day is our one big chance to wipe the deficit slate clean, get back into spiritual business, and start ‘trading' again."

Another Hertfordshire minister, Rabbi Naftali Brawer of Borehamwood Synagogue, acknowledged "fears of global terrorism, global warming, and global economic meltdown", but encouraged congregants to look forward. "Joy can only come from living in the present and in the real unpredictable world."


Last updated: 12:44pm, October 8 2008