An Islington synagogue has been handing out kosher food packages to help Jewish people celebrate religious holidays during the coronavirus lockdown.
The idea came to Rabbi Mendy Korer, 39, of Chabad Islington Synagogue, after he saw it become increasingly difficult for Jewish people to source and observe a Kosher diet during the pandemic when travel became restricted.
Rabbi Korer said: “Whilst it might not be a significant amount of food, the community members saw the food packages as a lifesaver. The uplift it gave them, to know that they were not alone, took that sense of isolation away for people.”
Forty per cent of those who received the food packages said without it, they would not have been able to celebrate the different Jewish holidays, Rabbi Korer said.
On Fridays, for Shabbat, the packages include challah bread and grape juice; for the High Holiday seasons, they included apples, a tub of honey and other relevant foods; and during Hanukkah, they included oil-based foods such as doughnuts and potato latkes.
Chabad found a caterer to provide the food, working with an Islington-based taxi company and a few dedicated volunteers to deliver the items. The initiative saw around 1,000 Jewish people recieve the packages, irrespective of whether they are part of the Chabad synagogue.
London Community Response fund, Islington Council and Islington Giving all helped fund the project.
Chabad, which also functions as a community centre, temporarily shut down after London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plea for places of worship to voluntarily close to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Its educational activities for younger children and general social events have been adjusted online, but worship services have stopped altogether. This is because services are performed on the Sabbath – a day of rest – and streaming digitally would constitute work.
Rabbi Korer said: “Not being able to gather does make things very challenging. I miss hosting people and watching members of the community become friends in a way they would not have been able to if not for our physical space. Our attendees for our worship services have expressed their eagerness to reopen so they can be a part of the communal worship they currently lack, although they understand the need for closure.”