Like all strong faith communities, the values we draw from our faith guide not just our private daily lives, but how we interact with the world and our neighbours around us. Regardless of the degree of religious observance three concepts in Judaism have are key components of Jewish identity and have great prominence in communal life. Gemilut Chassidim – acts of kindness, Tzedaka – social justice and Tikkun Olam – to repair the world.
Our community has a strong and thriving voluntary sector, largely financially self sustaining and generating huge levels of social capital. The breath of organisations serving all sectors of public life is a testament to the responsibility we feel for our general wellbeing, and a recognition that as individuals, our collective strength enables us to thrive.
Whether it takes the form of New North London Synagogue’s destitute asylum-seeker drop in, or the tens of thousands of Jews who take part in Mitzvah Day each year, volunteering is a central component of the Jewish community.
The Jewish Voluntary Sector in the UK has an estimated annual income of some £500m. The most resent research available suggests that 57% of the Jewish community took part in volunteering over the year preceding the study, with an estimated value of some £360m. Our community would simply cease to be able to function without the input of volunteers.
Volunteering is a vehicle through which our community is strengthened, having real benefits for those who take part in activities.
Volunteering support organisations such as the Jewish Volunteering Network and Interlink within the Charedi community provide a vital function in acting as a vital resource for information and support for many smaller Jewish 3rd sector organisations. From financial, governance and legal support, through to providing a central hub to pool willing volunteers together as well as promoting the value of volunteering to the wider community.
Volunteering and volunteers need support and encouragement, particularly at a time when Local Authorities are attempting to make economies in their budgets. With an increased focus through the Big Society for an increase in volunteering and for voluntary groups to take on more responsibilities in service delivery, it is absolutely key for the sustainability of the sector that culturally specific VCS support organisations are able to deliver for their membership, and receive support from Local Authorities and the GLA in delivering work that brings about the level of added value to our community that they do.
Making Volunteering Easier
The Jewish Community despite the high levels of volunteering still faces many of the same problems in delivering volunteering that the wider sector faces. Volunteering also plays an important role for young people gaining skills and experience in the context of growing youth unemployment. Young people should be able to volunteer and thereby gain skills to help them back into employment. They should not however be financially disadvantaged in doing so.
In the absence of work, Jobcentre Plus should be actively promoting volunteering as a viable option for those who find themselves temporarily out of work, and stay clear of applying any financial penalty.
Year of the Bike
Big Green Jewish – a coalition of organisations in the Jewish Community concerned about environmental issues have declared 2012 the ‘Year of the Bike’. Tackling the impact of transport on the environment more generally, they are campaigning within the community to take pledges on decreasing their carbon footprints by making greener transport decisions, including taking up cycling as a viable and safe alternative when commuting.
The proposed Cycle Superhighway 11, running from Marylebone will stop at border of Camden and Barnet, avoiding the Brent Cross Cricklewood development, and not crossing the North Circular, the biggest physical barrier to cycling in North West London. TfL should seriously consider extending the route of CS11 to ensure that residents in Barnet can benefit from better access to a safe and faster cycle network.
Implementing the Green Deal in London
The launch of the Green Deal later in 2012 will provide London with a great opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint by helping families, businesses and organisations in reducing their emissions and generating sustainable micro energy supplies. For synagogues, schools and other community assets, the increasing costs of heat and electricity are often amongst some of the most costly items organisations in the Jewish Community face. Cost-effective ways of retrofitting communal buildings will be an important part of reducing costs and reducing emissions, and those making the decision to take up the Green Deal need to be confident that they are taking informed decisions.
We would encourage the GLA and London Boroughs to consider becoming Green Deal providers. We would also encourage providers to work with the Jewish community to promote the Deal through pre-existing networks both for domestic and non-domestic Jewish customers.
Transport for Older People
With a disproportionately older population, the impact of adult social care in the Jewish community has a bigger impact that London at large. The Freedom Pass, Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard for those on the edges of Greater London are vital to their mobility and daily lives. With increasing numbers of older people staying in their own homes for longer, the dependency on affordable, disability-friendly transport will only increase.
Delivering a cost-effective and efficient transport system must be a top priority for the GLA and TfL. The Jewish Community would welcome moves by the Mayor of London to secure the long term viability of the Freedom Pass, as well as ensuring that TfL meets the cost of transport price increases for Taxicard users, and introducing a companion Pass for enablers. Equally, confidence in disability friendly transport services needs to be increased with greater reliability.
London Living Wage
Recognising the significant extra costs that everyday Londoners face in living in our city, the Jewish Community welcomes the London Living Wage. No Londoner, Jewish or not should ever be in a position where their monthly outgoings outstrip their income.
The Mayor of London should be an advocate for the London Living Wage, particularly within the business community, whilst London Boroughs should actively ensure that they are implementing the Living Wage for their staff and commissioned services.