Sacks throws rabbis a credit crunch lifeline

The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, is planning a special seminar next month to equip rabbis to deal with the impact of the financial crisis on their congregants.

Its aim is to help them provide pastoral care, encourage support networks and be aware of the sort of help available, such as the Employment Resource Centre.

He is also inviting some business representatives to advise rabbis on how communities can help.

"I think it will be matter of dealing with individuals quietly and confidentially," he said. "I do think the Jewish community is at its best when we're there as networks of support for people going through difficult times.

"I felt rabbis ought to have a range of advice and know what expertise is available."

He said that a few weeks ago at the annual pre-High Holy Day conference for rabbis, he had warned them that difficult times lay ahead and that they should do what they could to lift people's spirits.

"We don't know how the chips are going to fall," he said. "I was picking up enough over Rosh Hashanah to make me realise we had to set things in motion now.

"We have quite a lot of people in their 20s and 30s who were working in the big banks and financial institutions and a number have lost their jobs. Some of them had shares in the business when some of the banks went under. Some of our young people have suffered considerably."

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, said: "The credit crunch is affecting many of our members right across the spectrum, whether in terms of general fear or indeed actual redundancies.

"As a rabbinate we need to be on top of it - to gain perspective from leaders of industry and to be on hand to offer the practical support where so required."

The Chief Rabbi took office during the last recession in 1991. One of his office's first initiatives, he recalled, had been to launch the Jewish Association for Business Ethics.

"They have a market and morals curriculum which they offer to all schools in the country," he said.

"The phrase ‘markets and morals' has come into public discourse in the past couple of weeks. The Prime Minister used it in his UJIA speech and it's going to do the rounds. There has been a real problem of over-reach and short-termism."

 

    Last updated: 5:27pm, March 2 2009