US Chesed News

Coronavirus: the United Synagogue fights back
Date Uploaded: 
Tuesday 24th March 2020

1. Seder in a Box

 Can’t face the cooking? Don’t want to head to the shops? In isolation? The United Synagogue has created ‘Seder in a Box’ to help the community enjoy Seder nights with ease. The box will contain everything needed for a Seder, including a Seder plate, educational material and a three-course meal with cutlery and crockery.  Boxes are available to order with subsidies for those in need of assistance.

Michelle Minsky, head of the United Synagogue’s Chesed department, said: “Given the sad necessity to cancel communal Sedarim this year, this is one of the closest things we can do to a communal Seder.”

2. Engaging young people

With schools now closed, Tribe, the young people’s department of the United Synagogue, has prepared resources to keep our children both informed and entertained. Upcoming activities include:

  • A Kahoots online quiz (Pesach special!) with Rabbi Cobi Ebrahimoff
  • Matzah baking via Facebook Live with Tribe’s Education manager Malki Abramzyk – you just need flour and water! 
  • An evening for parents of teenagers with Rabbi Eli Levin to help them navigate their way through Pesach and the current situation
  • Story time with Rabbi Eli Levin every Thursday at 5pm via Tribe’s Facebook page
  • Online and distance learning programmes for young people attending Cheder
  • Tribe’s weekly e-newsletter will hit young people’s inboxes every Friday morning, with games and sedra highlights plus the Tribe Scribe comic
  • ‘The Exodus Files’: an educational resource for Pesach being posted to families with children aged 8-18

3. Kabbalat Shabbat Live

The people have spoken! Following last week’s successful Kabbalat Shabbat Live which saw more than 8,000 people tune in via Facebook Live, the United Synagogue will be running the initiative weekly from a different community until the Coronavirus crisis subsides. This Friday will be live from Mill Hill East Jewish Community with Rabbi Bentzi Mann for another uplifting service. Join thousands of community members at 5.10pm.

4. Pesach food parcels for those in need

Every year the United Synagogue supports 600 families in need over Pesach. The support varies depending on need – from vouchers to food to boxes of matzah. What doesn’t vary is the confidentiality: local communities discreetly support their members in need, with the US centrally providing the food parcels to the communities for them to distribute to preserve anonymity. This year demand has skyrocketed, with hundreds more families requesting support. The United Synagogue will meet those needs and has launched an emergency appeal to cover the costs.

5. Emergency Pesach Appeal

More than £20,000 has been raised in less than 24 hours for the United Synagogue’s emergency Pesach appeal. The organisation needs to provide support for older, vulnerable and isolated members of the communities in the lead up to Pesach with hundreds more food parcels will be provided than ever before. Each parcel costs £50. 

Michael Goldstein, President of the United Synagogue, said: “The United Synagogue must urgently help those in need in our community more than ever before to make Pesach. Over the next days and weeks, our older, vulnerable and isolated members will be on their own. We know already from phone calls that we have received in the last few days that we will be providing hundreds more food parcels than ever before.”

6. Community volunteers

Despite the challenges posed by Coronavirus, selfless United Synagogue community volunteers are putting in countless hours to support their members in need. United Synagogue Community Care Coordinators are making lists of their members who need support and creating rotas to check in on them by phone. Arrangements have been made with local delis and caterers to help people who are stuck at home. Communities are running befriending schemes. They are cooking for isolated members for Pesach and delivering shopping, running errands and posting letters. They are among the heroes of the Coronavirus crisis.

 7. Coronavirus helpline

The United Synagogue Coronavirus helpline aims to be a central port of call for people who need extra help whether practical, spiritual or emotional. The United Synagogue will assist people with their shopping or collecting medicines. It will also provide emotional support to any callers who are feeling anxious during this time and need someone to talk to. And it will offer Rabbinic advice and religious guidance to those who are seeking it. More than 100 people have already used the service.

8. Online programming

Synagogues may be closed, but our communities are open. Technology is allowing our communities to connect with their members and engage new people. Rabbis are livestreaming their shacharit, mincha and ma’ariv services so members can daven alongside them. Shiurim, talks and programmes have moved online. Guidance for Pesach preparation and inspirational ideas for Seder night are taking place through webinars. There’s story time for children, lunch and learns and a virtual coffee room. The United Synagogue will reveal a host of new online content in the coming weeks.


Richard Verber, Communications Director at the United Synagogue, said: “Coronavirus has tragically taken many lives and disrupted countless others. We don’t know how long the crisis will be with us but we do know that the United Synagogue will be by our members’ sides every step of the way to support them as best we can and continue to engage them through a range of high-quality Jewish programmes.

“The response to the Coronavirus crisis has been inspiring: hundreds of people, from across our communities, have put their own personal needs second to help those who require more urgent support. Thank you to everyone who has stepped up to fight this crisis and helped someone feel part of the wider Jewish family.”