Caring Communities Aren’t Created Just by Caring Committees
Caring Committees are a great beginning but are even more effective when our congregations are communities in which everyone provides care. Some congregations have gotten everyone involved in caring activities by asking each family to volunteer to be available for one or two days each year. They can trade days with another family as necessary, and they can select the ways in which they feel most comfortable helping.
Nobody is ever forced to participate, but every family can be asked to offer one or two days when they might deliver a basket to welcome a new baby; bring a meal to a person who is ill; participate in a shivah minyan; or offer a ride for those who need it to a congregational event or doctor’s appointment. Some people volunteer to deliver food to a local shelter. Others volunteer to send birthday cards or condolence notes to members.
Not everyone is right for every job—there are some people who are more comfortable visiting a home where there has been a loss while others would rather drop off a meal with a friendly note. Some tasks require training about confidentiality and appropriate ways to offer comfort—how to be a constructive visitor. Providing such training—to members, potential members and even those who do not volunteer—is an opportunity to help everyone in the community gain more familiarity with Jewish customs related to visiting the sick and comforting the bereaved. Clergy, educators and congregants who have mental health training can offer these workshops for people who would like to learn more about what to say when someone they know has experienced a loss or is seriously ill. Most people are glad to develop a feeling of greater certainty about what helps and what doesn’t in difficult situations. Once they feel more at ease, they are far more likely to volunteer. The result, of course, is a congregation made up of adults and children who know more about fulfilling the “obligations without measure.”