In 2018 we allowed social injustice to become as ubiquitous as Brexit. One such case is that of homelessness.
Over the past year we have all seen, with our own eyes, the dramatic rise in people sleeping on the streets or under makeshift tents.
On Christmas Day, I volunteered at New Hope’s Winter Night Shelter – which is operated in partnership with St Mary’s Church and Watford Borough Council. I will be there again this month.
Other members of my shul are volunteering at projects in London and Hertfordshire, while our cheder has provided donations of porridge pots, cup-a-soups and hot drinks.
The individual stories we have heard are varied and it is humbling to think that we are all but a few crises from needing such support.
I am desperate that those with whom I engaged do not become a 2019 statistic, such as the one recently reported by the Office for National Statistics that 597 rough sleepers died in 2018.
Crisis suggested there were more than 24,000 people in Britain who would be sleeping rough or in cars, trains, buses or tents over Christmas.
While gratified by our personal involvement in social action to aid the homeless, we should not ignore social justice work on this issue.
Tzelem: The Rabbinic Call for Social and Economic Justice in the UK will be an important voice. A truly cross-communal organisation, it was founded on the Jewish principle that we are all created b’tzelem Elokim – in the image of God – and seeks to take action to tackle the problems at the root of our society, our economy and our treatment of the vulnerable.
In our own Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi justifiably gave colleagues at our recent clergy Kallah (retreat) a verbal rocket to be a leading voice in calling out social injustice, just as our ancient prophets were.
In Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals), we read: “We have eaten and been satisfied. Help us to be responsive to the needs of others and to listen to their cry for food. Open our eyes and our hearts, so that we may share Your gifts and help to remove hunger and want from the world.”
Over this winter, and throughout 2019, may we continue our valuable and meaningful social action
work; and raise our voices to affect long-term change in our society.
- Rabbi Aaron Goldstein is senior rabbi at Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue