At this time of unprecedented stress and anxiety for people of all faiths, cultures and backgrounds everywhere, SCoJeC has joined the effort to ensure that Jewish people in Scotland are able to celebrate Pesach (Passover), despite the enormous disruption the requirements for social distancing have brought to whatever they may have planned for the festival.
Passover is one of the most widely observed festivals, and for most Jewish people the Seder meal on the first night is a communal or family occasion. Very many people will have planned to attend communal Sedarim organised by their synagogues, or to travel abroad to one of the many hotels that run Passover programmes, or to go away to celebrate with family. Now with all travel on hold, none of these is possible, and people in remote areas, or who are isolated or isolating, can’t even get hold of the items they need to celebrate the festival.
There are Jewish people living all over Scotland, from the Highlands and Islands to the Borders and everywhere in between. Many may really think they are “the only Jew in the village”, but SCoJeC has discovered by repeated experience that it rarely true. One elderly lady wrote to us plaintively, “I am a community of one – SCoJeC is my community”, and a couple of months later, after we organised a party attended by more than 30 people from the area, she had changed her opinion, writing, “For the first time I feel part of a community”. Now that all community is virtual community, paradoxically it is even easier to be part of it.
SCoJeC has therefore obtained funding from the Scottish Government to assist with emergency efforts to help individuals celebrate Pesach, and to help maintain a sense of community at this very difficult time. Thanks to this funding, we are able to assist the communal welfare organisations to provide the special items needed for the Seder meal and for the week-long festival, to meet the expenses of the volunteers who have been delivering food packages for the communal caterers, and have created a special section of our website with a huge amount of information about what is available, including cultural events and religious services. (Click here to listen to Mark Cohen of Mark's Deli in Glasgow and SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski discussing this on Radio Scotland.)
Anyone who has concerns about being able to celebrate Passover, to keep kosher, or participate Jewish life in Scotland during this difficult time can find information about the organisations and communities in Scotland who are able to help with anything from advice, supplying goods and services, or answering questions on faith and faith related needs at difficult times on our website.
For welfare services, the best way to understand the needs of Jewish service-users is to ask the individuals themselves, and to contact SCoJeC to seek advice and assistance.
Jewish community bodies across Scotland have been working tirelessly to ensure that the community and its representative organisations follows the government’s advice and adhere to guidelines, and SCoJeC is glad to be able to assist them. At the same time, we are also supporting efforts to ensure that there are still various ways to keep in touch and to celebrate being Jewish in Scotland, even during this unprecedented crisis. For example, just last week SCoJeC had arranged a klezmer concert, and instead of just cancelling it, we took it online (listen here!) – and 634 people signed up to attend! As one participant said, “Social distancing is such a weird term – we need to embrace physical distancing, and social connection. Thank you for helping us do that today.”