Charities keep the flames of hope alive all year round

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Charities keep the flames of hope alive all year round

Our community's charities are shining a bright light at Chanukah

Louisa Walters is Features Editor at the Jewish News and specialises in food and travel writing

Pic: Chana
Pic: Chana

Creating life and light

Even in this time of communal crisis, our pre-existing personal challenges, some of which are very significant, remain. Chana understands that its clients’ fertility struggles cannot simply be put on hold and the charity has a responsibility to ensure that its support services remain solid and continuous. Chana is currently providing different types of support for over 350 couples still waiting for the baby they long for, with five new couples reaching out for support each week.

Couples who are suffering with infertility, miscarriage and baby loss face a maze of overwhelming information and can often feel like they are fumbling in the dark. Chana illuminates a pathway to the relevant information, investigations, treatments and financial assistance, and holds their hands right the way through to achieving their dream of having a baby. One Chana client says: “With the rising cost of living, we were unable to self-fund our course of fertility treatment. I don’t want to think what would’ve happen if we didn’t have Chana’s support. Thank God, this Chanukah we are celebrating with our toddler who brings so much light into our world”.


Home help

Jewish Blind & Disabled’s spotlight is always on transforming the lives of people in our community living with physical disabilities and sight. This coming Sunday 10 December the charity is launching a 36-hour matched giving fundraising campaign.  Every pound donated on 10 and 11 December will be DOUBLED.

With a housing waiting list of over 100 people, and an increasing number of people who live in their own homes needing support, the charity has ambitious plans to grow and develop. Alongside building more housing, it is supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our community through its Independent Living Advice Service, which enables people to stay independent in their own homes for longer and helps improve their quality of life. This vital service is free to anyone over 18 with a physical disability or vision impairment living within the M25. This weekend’s matched giving campaign ensure the charity can support people from our community who have nowhere else to turn.

Camp Simcha children’s retreat

Children first

Camp Simcha’s Chanukah activities are designed to bring light to seriously ill children and their families, with a children’s residential retreat, Chanukah parties in London and Manchester and its annual Toy Drive. Daniel Gillis, Head of Services explains: “Like everyone in the community, Camp Simcha families have been devastated by the events in Israel and the ramifications for Jewish people everywhere. However, this comes on top of all the daily pressures and constant anxiety that goes with having a seriously ill child. Now, more than ever, our families need relief and some light in all the darkness.”

At this year’s children’s retreat, Camp Simcha was joined by 25 seriously ill children. With a doctor, nurses and carers on site, specialist equipment and a bespoke programme of activities, the three-day residential retreat provided crucial respite for parents and independence for the children – some of whom have never been able to go away without their parents before.

The charity’s Chanukah parties welcomed over 400 family members, while the Toy Drive saw nurseries, schools, shuls, cheders, businesses and individuals collecting thousands of toys which are now being distributed to children of all denominations and none, in over 120 hospital wards and hospices throughout London and Manchester.

Chanukah at the WIZO Parents Home

On the ground

In this time of great darkness in Israel, WIZO is restoring light to the lives of suffering and traumatised individuals. With social welfare needs exacerbated by the crisis, healing emotional and psychological wounds is vital. WIZO is uniquely qualified to provide immediate mental health support with a range of individual therapies and is committed to radiating hope for the vulnerable who depend on its 800 projects across the country, alongside the increasing numbers of Israeli citizens in need of its expertise.

So far over 30,000 food and clothing packages have been distributed to soldiers and displaced families. Meanwhile 120 displaced elderly citizens, some Holocaust survivors, have been housed in WIZO’s Parents Home and WIZO Youth Villages are caring for 250 students who have immigrated to Israel without their families, some having fled the trauma of the Ukraine War.

Helplines have responded to over 3,500 calls from those who are displaced, whose partners have been called up for reserve duty and for victims of domestic violence. The WIZO Vocational High School in Jerusalem has introduced a vital new emotional therapy programme to assist countless extremely traumatised students.


JNF’s Dan Shapiro visiting a Holocaust Survivor in Israel

Rebuilding communities

The KKL Legacy Department’s Chanukah lunch for clients and the wider community will welcome David Bouskila, former Mayor of Sderot, on a live link. He will share how JNF UK is helping to rebuild communities and shine a light on lives, after the devastation in the south of Israel. JNF/KKL’s campaign Operation Ir Miklat, to clear, clean and renovate bomb shelters in the northern towns of the country means that shelters will provide crucial protective space for 120,000 residents.

JNF UK volunteers are travelling all over Israel distributing emergency kits to Holocaust survivors, which are designed to make sitting in a bomb shelter for hours at a time more comfortable. Each package includes a torch with batteries, a transistor radio and first aid kit, plus food and special packages to commemorate Chanukah. The survivors often live in buildings without a lift and if the shelter is on the ground floor, because of their age, when the missile alert is sounded, they must stay in their apartments. These visits are a lifeline and shine a really bright light on the most vulnerable members of Israeli society.


Phone and Learn sessions re conducted remotely

Learning curve

Ever since the terrible events of 7 October there has been a strong feeling of unity among Jews in the UK. Many people are feeling an increased connection to their Judaism, either out of solidarity with Israel or because of rising antisemitism – or in some cases both! Phone and Learn – PaL are offering the opportunity to tap into that interest and sign up for a free 15-minute weekly session with your own dedicated, well-suited learning partner to connect and explore your Jewish identity. Now is a time to feel proud of being Jewish – after all, together we’re stronger and learning more about Judaism will empower you to feel that way. Building a learning connection is a great way to embrace Jewish sentiment and it’s really easy to sign up and get started.


Harry Olmer at Jewish Care Holocaust Survivors Centre


Jewish Care, which shines a light on the community all year round, calls this time of year Chanucare. This Chanukah older members of the community are worried about current events, whilst facing their own challenges closer to home. Jewish Care will continue to brighten up their lives and ensure that they feel connected during the eight days of Chanucare with celebrations, candle-lighting, latkas and doughnuts across the charity’s community centres, dementia day centres, care homes and retirement living schemes. Care buses will bring people to the services and Supportive Communities Tea Party guests will enjoy gathering together for Chanukah, while people in the community will receive Meals on Wheels. These are just a few of the services Jewish Care provides to enable people to remain in touch with their Jewish identity, to live with dignity and to receive the care they need. We are stronger when we look after each other and Jewish Care thanks the community for the kindness and generosity which help it to strengthen and support older people to shine bright in our community.


Get family and friends together for a meal

Family and friends

Once your Chanukah celebrations are over, don’t rush to put away all your best china and cutlery; mental health charity Jami is giving the community another reason to come together and enjoy good food and good company. The charity, which supports those whose mental illness and distress makes everyday life a challenge, will be marking its 8th Mental Health Shabbat on 19–20 January 2024 to encourage conversations on mental health and to share ideas on how we can support ourselves and others within the community. For the first time ever, Jami is inviting members of the community to host a meal over Jami Mental Health Shabbat to raise vital funds and awareness of the charity’s life-changing mental health services, while spending quality time connecting with family and friends. Meal hosts will be encouraged to ask their guests to make a donation to Jami instead of gifting flowers or wine. After signing up to host a meal, people will receive some useful resources, such as recipes and conversation cards. Jami will also be producing its annual toolkit, containing a range of rabbi sermons, youth activities and other great resources, to encourage shuls, schools and youth groups to get involved.


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