Chief Rabbi and United Synagogue unveil their booster shot for British Jews
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Chief Rabbi and United Synagogue unveil their booster shot for British Jews

‘Unprecedented’ project launched today in the Jewish News, aims to get the Jewish community back on its feet post-Covid.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Sanitising a synagogue. (Vladimir Gerdo/TASS)
Sanitising a synagogue. (Vladimir Gerdo/TASS)

The Chief Rabbi today unveils an “unprecedented” campaign to get the community back up and running post-Covid.

Launching Project Welcome exclusively in the Jewish News, Ephraim Mirvis reveals his plan, in partnership with the United Synagogue. It consists of four goals to build back better.

They are: specialised help for shul leadership teams to go through a strategic thinking process, to develop a vision, mission and goals for the community; a series of videos and webinars on strategy, engaging particular demographic groups, and programming; programme ideas and ‘how-to’ guides; and a special pot of funding from the Chief Rabbi’s Centre for Community Excellence and United Synagogue to help communities to achieve these goals.

As the Chief Rabbi observes: “Synagogue has always been the hub of communal activity. How would we cope without it?”

Project Welcome, said Mirvis, “has the potential to change the very fabric of our community life forever for the better”. The campaign, which is aimed at existing US communities, has been designed as a result of what has happened during the pandemic. It is both a financial and intellectual response, with the intention of bringing people back to their communities, and attracting new members.

The brainstorming which led to Project Welcome took place as part of a comprehensive search for how best to respond to the challenges of the coronavirus.

As the Chief Rabbi observes: “Synagogue has always been the hub of communal activity. How would we cope without it?”

Synagogue service in Edgware under lockdown in the early stages of the pandemic (Marc Morris Photography)

And although he praises the “tireless, dedicated work of our rabbis, rebbetzins and lay leaders”, during the first wave of the virus, he says that “this era of profound change for our society presents an invaluable opportunity for our communities to change as well. It will simply not be good enough for us to return to do what we have always done.”

Chief Rabbi Mirvis adds: “At this historic watershed moment, no effort should be spared to draw all of our trusted ‘regulars’ back to synagogue, and to engage meaningfully with those who have not previously made a habit of crossing the threshold.

“In addition, the pandemic has highlighted for us that communities are primarily about people and not buildings, crucial though they are, and we must continue to build and sustain communal vitality well beyond any communal edifice.”

Rabbi Mirvis adds: “There are so many who are thirsting for a deeper connection with their Judaism. Now is the moment to provide it.”

Michael Goldstein, president of the United Synagogue, said the project “does exactly what it says on the tin”.

He added: “We must reach out and welcome back members who have not yet felt comfortable to return to synagogue due to the pandemic. In partnership with the Chief Rabbi and his office, Project Welcome will provide support and resources to help each community to seize this opportunity. I can’t wait to get started.”

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