Leeds reaps benefits of planning before the pandemic

'We had been creative planning for some kind of emergency,' explains the Jewish representative council


The Leeds community was better prepared than many for dealing with the pandemic, having for some time been looking at “creative planning for some kind of emergency — although not to this extent”.

Jewish representative council executive director Susie Gordon said that with affiliate organisations already collaborating, the support effort hit the ground running.

Leeds Jewish Welfare Board had released staff to assist the most vulnerable through a buddy system, as well as helping with shopping.

A community website has been a source of essential information and the Leeds Jewish Facebook Group, established eight years ago, has become an increasingly important tool in keeping people informed of activities.

With restrictions on attendances at funerals, a 10 minute regular online service is planned, both to honour the dead and support those currently unwell.

Ms Gordon reported that the community was fortunate in being well served by volunteers, who in many cases got as much out of their involvement as the beneficiaries.“People who have been furloughed or cannot work from home need to have some meaning to their day.”

The lockdown had highlighted the plight of the lonely —‑ “people we should have been looking after anyway” — but also magnified the difficulties of organisations which were already struggling. And the high take-up for online activities would “change the way we look at services. When this is over, we need to examine where money is being spent where it doesn’t need to be.”

The crisis had also brought a reconnection to the community from those who had moved away. “Someone joined a cookery class from New Zealand.”

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