Jewish and Christian leaders including Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will walk or run to key worker sites to offer prayers as part of a series of “virtual pilgrimages”.
The "pilgrimages", in which the ministers will be paired for simultaneous walks and make short videos at every stop, have been organised by the Council of Christians and Jews.
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg is kicking off proceedings tonight, when he will run from his home in north London to the Royal Free, University College Hospital, Great Ormond Street and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.
“Here are these people on the front line, health workers, undertakers, trying to bury our dead with dignity. People in food shops stacking shelves, taking things to food banks. And I was thinking, what can I contribute? One thing I can do is express appreciation,” said Rabbi Wittenberg, who came up with the idea of the virtual pilgrimage, which was quickly taken up by the CCJ.
He will stop to make a short video at each location and offer a prayer. “I am thinking of putting into a few words my particular gratitude to each hospital and place I visit, based on people I know who care and who have been cared for there, including now during Covid-19, then adding some verse from the Psalms or the Siddur,” said Rabbi Wittenberg.
Rabbi Wittenberg is paired with the Rev Colin Sinclair, the moderator for the Church of Scotland, who will visit hospitals and care homes near his home in Edinburgh during his walk.
Others taking part will be Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, and Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi.
“I wanted to do something to highlight the amazing things people were doing and also point the way to the new normal, which wants to be more compassionate and less unjust,” said Rabbi Wittenberg.
The first stop for Rabbi Wittenberg will be at Whitestone Pond in Hampstead, where he will meet Micah Gold, a member of his community, who has been taking large quantities of food to food banks and hospitals.
“This is about consciousness-raising. I really hope it will bring attentiveness to Chesed in our society. And that it’s something that we’ll hold on to. I’m hoping it will represent a concerted effort by religious leaders – it’s a way of marking an agenda. And a way of saying thank you.
“With synagogues and churches shut, religious leaders have become more invisible. I think it’s terribly important that there are voices of encouragement and solidarity and support which are in harmony with one another,” said the rabbi.