The Story of Martin Schapiro
How it started
There are problems in our society that we can only tackle together hand in hand. One of these problems is the increasing crisis of loneliness.
This is why solidarity and care for one another are the very heart of the Yachad-Together project.
Although we live in increasingly larger cities and are more connected than ever before, it’s no secret that many people still lack social encounters. We are turning more and more into ‘a lonely crowd’, as rabbi Jonathan Sacks once called it.
This especially comes clear when Rabbi Avi Tawil tells the story of how the idea of the Yachad-Together came to life.
Avi tells me, he and his family often used to visit friends on Fridays to bring them some homemade Challah and spend time with them. One day in Argentina it became clear to him that he needs to go even further.
He and his family were sitting in a beautiful yard and the children were playing at the pool. All of a sudden Nehama, his wife, recognizes an olderly woman looking from one of the surrounding flats, looking out of her window watching them with a smile on her face. Nehama waves and asks her to join them in the yard. She happily accepts and they start talking.
Avi and Nehama find out that the lady has not had a conversation with other people in two years. She has an interesting life story, but lives on her own by now, since her husband died and her children live abroad. When Avi asks her about her neighbors she answers that she does not know them. The family spends the next few days with her, they talk,drink tea together and the children come to her flat to play.
When the family leaves Argentina they do it with a bittersweet feeling. They are on the one hand happy that they were able to spend such a nice time with a lady that really appreciated the company. But on the other hand, they notice that she is by far not the only person suffering from social isolation. They return to Brussels with the knowledge that also there are many people that live door to door and never exchanged as much as a word even though some would be very happy about every warm gesture.
Shared responsibility and care for one another are key values in Jewish custody and therefore it is quite normal for the family to visit friends on Fridays to bring them homemade Shabbat goods and spend some time with them. But they started to do it more often and even connected friends with people they knew would be happy about a visit.
During Covid these visits reached a whole new dimension and more and more people reached out to ask if they could take part, so that in the end the Yachad project contained over 60 volunteers going around Brussels visiting young and old. The Yachad-Together project as we know it today was born.
By Linn Laemmle