Jewish Volunteering Network honours stand-out contributions during the pandemic.

The Jewish Volunteering Network has recognised four stand-out contributions during the pandemic to share its new award for innovation in the Covid era.

Before an online audience in excess of 1,000 at its volunteering awards, the Covid category prize winners were announced as Bushey Synagogue, Jewish Blind & Disabled, JLGB and Kef Kids.

Bushey’s Covid co-ordinators appealed for volunteers to assist members needing help with shopping, picking up prescriptions and other essential tasks. More than 60 people responded and the support has been run through an “errands request” WhatsApp group.

JLGB Virtual was designed to give young people the opportunity to have fun, learn new skills and generally make a difference. Teenagers interviewed leading personalities and celebrities and challenged viewers to undertake acts of kindness such as learning sign language and first aid and accomplishing good deeds for others.

Within a few weeks of the first lockdown, JBD had recruited some 60 new volunteers of all ages to befriend and support tenants. Almost a year on, many have continued to make calls to tenants and run Zoom activities for them.

Although the Kef Centre has been closed, the organisation has continued to provide vital support and specialist services remotely with volunteers creating and delivering support packages and running digital group sessions.

JVN chief executive Nicky Goldman said a tough year had made it “all the more reason to celebrate volunteers and the role they have played. It has been truly inspiring to hear all the stories of volunteers from the Jewish community and the wider charity sector.”

Held in memory of former JVN chair David Lazarus, who died from Covid at the start of the pandemic, the awards were hosted by broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky with guest appearances from Matt Lucas, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Facebook’s Lady Nicola Mendelsohn and gold medal-winning athlete Colin Jackson. Dame Esther Rantzen and Robert Rinder introduced award categories.

Other honours went to Ruth Green of UJIA (outstanding volunteer) and the United Synagogue chevrah kadishah (volunteer team). The chevrah kadishah prepares the deceased’s body for burial and given the pandemic, 2020 was one of its busiest years.

The outstanding lifetime achievement award went to Elaine Grazin, one of the founding members of Jewish Women’s Aid in Leeds in the 1980s.

A committed volunteer since then, she has held a variety of roles within the charity and spoken about its work at communal events including Limmud and synagogue gatherings.

JWA CEO Naomi Dickson later described Ms Grazin as “inspirational. She has dedicated much of her life to ensuring that Jewish women experiencing domestic abuse are able to find a soft landing and professional, sympathetic support.

“During the pandemic, Elaine has continued to volunteer her time and expertise in the knowledge that JWA’s services are desperately needed by so many women.

“She is very humble and has never expected praise or thanks for all her years of hard work.”