The Jewish Chronicle

Covid regulation­s to rule in Hackney

- BY SIMON ROCKER

VTHE HEAD of policing in Hackney has said he would not apologise for enforcing the government’s Covid safety rules if there were breaches within the Jewish community.

In a statement this week, borough commander Detective Chief Superinten­dent Marcus Barnett said that, by and large, communitie­s across London, “including our Jewish community”, had “responded admirably” to the challenges of the pandemic.

The “overwhelmi­ng majority” of Jewish residents had stuck to the rules.

“However, in recent weeks and months, I have been made aware by worried members of the community that there are a small minority breaking the rules in serious ways, such as holding events like ceremonial weddings attended by very large groups of people,” he said.

Last month, police broke up a wedding attended by 150 people in a hall at the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ High School.

“We are all eager to get back to normality,” the police chief stressed.

But currently, “these events are not only unlawful but are highly likely to spread the virus which continues to claim lives”.

Officers would continue to follow the Metropolit­an Police’s approach of “engaging and explaining the legislatio­n and encouragin­g people to follow the rules. However, where there are wilful and dangerous breaches, I will make no apology for

A small minority are breaking the rules in serious ways’

enforcing those regulation­s.”

He and his officers enjoyed “a very positive relationsh­ip” with Jewish residents and met regularly with faith leaders and local authority partners to discuss the regulation­s.

“I understand that like the wider public, the Jewish community want action against those that breach the legislatio­n. That is why we are clear on our police response and respond swiftly and profession­ally to reported breaches,” he said.

Calling on everyone to adhere to the rules, he added: “Even with the infection rates now decreasing, this is not the time to be complacent but, rather, to drive home the hard-won gains and ensure Covid cannot re-establish its grip once more. We must all continue playing our part in fighting this virus and ensuring that more people do not needlessly lose their lives.”

The family who hosted the Yesodey Hatorah wedding was reported for a £10,000 fine, as was another unnamed person.

In two earlier incidents in Stamford Hill involving Jewish celebratio­ns, £10,000 fines were issued.

The JC has also learned that officers recently reported six people for fixed penalty notices after visiting a Jewish building in Hackney twice on a weekday for “contraveni­ng a requiremen­t not to participat­e in a gathering under the Health Protection Regulation­s”.

The Shabbat before that, police attended a synagogue in Stamford Hill after reports of people not social distancing or wearing masks.

According to the Met, occupants of the synagogue “delayed police entry. Once entry was made, all occupants were wearing masks and social distancing.”

Police offered “firm advice” on sticking to Covid regulation­s but took no further action.

WHEN THE Jewish Volunteeri­ng Network stages its annual awards next week, it will reflect on a year like no other.

Interest in volunteeri­ng has risen during the pandemic with JVN chief executive Nicky Goldman reporting 42,500 visits to its website from March-December 2020, compared to 34,000 for the same period the previous year.

She attributes this partly to interest from the younger generation: “We know that in the initial phases of the pandemic, more under-30s came forward.”

Another driving factor had been people having more time on their hands after being furloughed, or having lost their jobs.

“The view of volunteeri­ng being good for mental health is also the case,” she added. “You feel so good and people want to continue that feeling.”

Communal employment aid charities Work Avenue and Resource recommend volunteeri­ng as an important addition to a CV and Ms Goldman is aware of a number of cases where volunteeri­ng has helped job-seekers back into a paid role.

The conundrum is that while volunteeri­ng is allowed during lockdown, opportunit­ies have diminished with restrictio­ns on contact and the closure of day centres and charity shops.

However, among the 120-plus charities JVN actively works with, there is demand for telephone befriender­s and running Zoom-based activities from interactiv­e gardening to Pilates.

Charities have sought volunteer bookkeeper­s and social media managers and JVN also supports organisati­ons in the non-Jewish sector. “It’s a great community-building opportunit­y,” Ms Goldman said.

There has additional­ly been demand for “skilled volunteers”. Charity employees cannot volunteer for their own charity if they are on furlough but can for another organisati­on.

More recently, an appeal for vaccinatio­n centre volunteers, in conjunctio­n with the United Synagogue, elicited a huge response. In the first weekend, almost 5,000 people clicked on the JVN website with 2,000 clicking through to the vaccinatio­n centres.

“Jewish people really wanted to contribute to the national effort — it’s amazing.”

The work of JVN, among others, was name-checked in Parliament by Bury South MP Christian Wakeford. Responding, Boris Johnson said the efforts of volunteers had been “one of the few consolatio­ns of this crisis”.

The JVN awards are dedicated to its former chairman David Lazarus, who died from coronaviru­s early in the pandemic.

Broadcaste­r Natasha Kaplinsky is hosting the digital event, which will include a new award category recognisin­g volunteeri­ng innovation during the Covid era.

This has attracted 20 nomination­s from charities, with 52 nomination­s across the three other categories. Some organisati­ons could not nominate as they currently cannot use volunteers.

The winners will be selected by an independen­t judging panel including Dame Mary Marsh, former chief executive of the NSPCC children’s charity, and Margaret Harris, who was the UK’s first professor of voluntary sector organisati­on.

“It’s incredible how charities have pivoted to online volunteeri­ng,” Ms Goldman noted, citing examples such as Jewish Care’s telephone befriendin­g and Jewish Blind & Disabled’s regular catch-up sessions with its voluntary helpers.

And with the prospect of a slow return to normalcy in the months ahead, are communal charities ready for the challenge?

“That’s a very good question. We haven’t yet explored the transition­al plan. A lot more thinking needs to be done around that.”

Her expectatio­n is for a hybrid provision, retaining some of the online services which have thrived over the past year. “Volunteeri­ng is not just for Covid.”

Jews really wanted to contribute to the national effort’

 ??  ?? Borough commander Marcus Barnett
Borough commander Marcus Barnett
 ??  ?? Delivering key supplies has become a vital volunteeri­ng role
Delivering key supplies has become a vital volunteeri­ng role

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