By Shelley Marsh, Reshet

Taking responsibility for another person, in a youth work setting, is one of our greatest strengths as well as one of our challenges. Caring for children and young people’s physical and emotional well-being is a core component of our work. It is easy to misconstrue the importance of caring for young people as something we take for granted, assuming that caring for Jewish youth is something that we just do… It is vital we give consideration to the fact that we cannot deliver appropriate care without suitable policies along with high calibre training, ensuring our implementation processes directly mirror our policies.

The Talmud (Shevuot 39a) concludes with the phrase, “Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh” translating as “all of Israel are responsible for each other.”

This phrase is the basis of the notion of communal responsibility in Jewish law. There is an explicit concept that we have an obligation to step in and help others.

Our duty of care, our shared responsibility to keeping children and young people safe requires clear structures and up to date legal knowledge coupled with a distinct understanding that we must always protect those who may be vulnerable.

I have had many conversations with colleagues and trustees in communal organisations who have recognised our responsibility to ensure safeguarding standards are impeccable. This isn’t an area of work that is something we do once and can then consider it completed. Our work is on-going and we must continue to assess, review and refresh our training. In Jewish tradition, year on year, we are blessed to celebrate and to remember our past. Through lighting candles, we remember those we have lost, we light candles and we remember individually and collectively.

We light candles to welcome Shabbat each week and at Chanukah we light candles every night for eight nights, often coming together as a community to celebrate. Each candle, one at a time, reminds us that each individual light is small and yet it is still significant. As we light candle after candle, the light is even brighter.

Kol echad hu or katan (each one of us is a small light)
V’kulanu or eitan (together we are a strong light)

We need to work individually, taking responsibility for safeguarding as trustees, professionals and volunteers. And we need to work together as a community because we are not immune to issues of abuse.

Working together as a community on safeguarding we are able to learn from and with each other. We are able to access training together, lowering the cost to each organisation. I am incredibly proud so many communal organisations have approached Reshet to access training, review work and share best practice, quite simply, because we are responsible for each other. There is more to do and I am confident we will continue to raise awareness and continuously improve.

Happy Chanukah,

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