They say the family that prays together stays together, but in today’s Britain it’s often volunteering and social action that bond different generations of Jews.
Studies have found that families who give their time as a unit gain priceless experiences such as shared memories, new challenges and time together without distractions.
It’s a concept that is central to this year’s Mitzvah Day, the UK’s biggest faith-based day of social action, which has the theme of L’Dor Vador: From Generation To Generation.
Jewish News spoke to three families to find out how volunteering has not only helped others, but cemented their own relationships and the passing on of Jewish values…
Michelle Becker and her daughter Rose have been volunteering together almost from the moment Rose was born.
Helping others is now second nature to the nine-year-old – so much so that she helps her mum and sister organise Mitzvah Day each year at Radlett United Synagogue. They are also regular visitors to Jewish Care’s Michael Sobell Jewish Community Centre throughout the year, befriending and entertaining the elderly there.
Filmmaker Michelle, pictured with Rose making teddy bears for children in hospital for the charity Save A Child’s Heart on Mitzvah Day last year, said: “Rose loves volunteering and gets such pleasure from helping others.
“Her smile beams when she makes someone happy and she has learnt a lot from the training and experience she has received at Jewish Care and on Mitzvah Day.”
Michelle also stresses the importance of spending quality time together as a family, away from the distractions of work, screens and modern life.
She added: “It’s a truly special time together doing something to help others, either as just the two of us or with the rest of the family. It’s an experience that everyone benefits from.”
Pat Jacobs is the very model of a proud Jewish grandmother, beaming with delight as she talks about volunteering alongside her granddaughters Sophie and Hannah Rees.
Pat, along with 15-year-old Sophie and 18-year-old Hannah, are regulars at Jewish Blind & Disabled’s buildings in Mill Hill East and Kingsbury – serving teas, putting on parties and having fun with the tenants.
Pat said: “The work of Jewish Blind & Disabled is vital for the Jewish community, providing a life of independence, dignity and choice for any adult, from the age of 18 upwards, who has physically disabilities or impaired vision.
“But more than that, it’s a chance for me to spend time with my amazing granddaughters and show them the Jewish values around social action that I hold so dear.
“I’ve known a number of the tenants for many years and we love a good catch up. Now instead of just showing them photos of my family, they can get to know the girls in person.”
Sophie added: “I love seeing how much the tenants of all ages love my grandma and how we always all have such a giggle.”
Dan Rickman wouldn’t be the man he is today without the lifelong love of volunteering his dad Simon instilled in him.
Dan says that volunteering alongside his dad, as well as mum Jacqui and other family members, has helped him form lasting friendships and led him to a career in the charity sector and his current role as the Executive Director of Mitzvah Day.
Explaining how it all started, Dan said: “When I was young we moved from Manchester to Hove, and I really missed not having a Jewish football league to play in anymore.
“In Hove there aren’t enough kids of the same age to even make up a 5-a-side game, so my dad and I set up weekly friendlies every Sunday for Jewish kids of all ages to at least get the chance to play together.
“We also had active roles in the local shul; Dad teaching bar and bat mitzvah classes for more than 10 years and me volunteering at the cheder and running youth programming until I was 16.”
And the volunteering didn’t stop there. Now in his thirties and recently married, Dan still regularly calls Simon and asks for his time, most recently for an intergenerational tea at Jewish to launch Mitzvah Day.
Simon says: “I am so proud of the man Dan has become and that we can still volunteer side by side.
“I love helping out at Langdon, where Dan has starting a befriending scheme, based on his own friendship with member Andrew Pievsky. And, of course, I will be kvelling on November 19 as I join in once more on Mitzvah Day.”
To get involved with Mitzvah Day, visit mitzvahday.org