Coming up with the right recipe

Week two in our campaign looks at community's response to social isolation


Loneliness may be one of the biggest issues facing members of the community, but organisations and individuals are fighting back with a series of innovative initiatives.

According to Jewish Care, there are twice the number of Jewish people aged 60 or over compared to the general population, and one in three adults lives alone.

Maidenhead Reform Synagogue's rabbi Jonathan Romain has made combating social isolation a key priority.

He said: "Many of our older members have official carers who visit and do practical tasks for them like washing and cooking, but what they crave is time to talk to someone.

"There are also many who are not elderly who are lonely, people who go out to work each day but return home to an empty house and dread shutting the door behind them. We need things to help both."

Tell us what you’re doing to combat loneliness. Call Rosa Doherty on 020 7415 1616 or email

The synagogue runs a weekly friendship club called Wednesday Social, where people can talk to other members of the community .

Rabbi Romain said everyone aged over 75 gets a phone call from a "designated buddy" who rings a minimum of four times a year, though it often becomes more regular.

And for one of his congregation aged 105, daily meals are supplied to enable him to stay in his own home.

The United Synagogue says many of its shuls have activities that target the lonely, including befriending services and helplines.

Michelle Minsky, head of US Chesed, said Borehamwood Synagogue runs a phone networking scheme that has resulted in eight members receiving regular visits. Golders Green Synagogue runs a similar service, while St John's Wood shul run a weekly lunch club for its members.

A spokesperson for North-Western Reform Synagogue in Golders Green said it was important to offer a range of tailored services. She said: "It is not a one-size-fits-all approach that is needed and we run various different things to help make sure people are not alone.

"One thing we offer is an afternoon activity called News, Views, Coffee and Schmooze. It was started after a member said that they missed talking about the world's events with people. It engages people and lets them know that their views matter."

The Jewish Helpline volunteer service takes 2,000 calls a year from people who are struggling to cope.

Founder Tamara Zenios said: "Loneliness is the main reason people call us. We have some clients that call daily who are isolated and have little in the way of family or friends, and others have people around them but no one that they would want to share their worries with."

Sheffield Jewish Congregation, which has a small community of 200 members, runs a visiting committee which checks in on the vulnerable. It also runs a friendship club, Shabbat lunches, and knitting and bridge clubs.

In Liverpool, with a community of almost 3,000, Merseyside Jewish Community Care carry out 600 home visits a year and plan to convert a site into a centre for the elderly. A spokesman said loneliness was a major issue for Jews in the area.

Weybridge Synagogue, in Surrey, has come up with a Sunday morning club called Harry's Bar. Parents have coffee while their children are in chedar, and are joined by members of the congregation who want company.

Lisa Wimborne of Jewish Care said Harry's Bar was a notable success. "It is one of the more organic initiatives that really seems to work."

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