‘Chai’s Manchester ‘The Moment’ Virtual Dinner ended on a Chai!’

Over 500 households from all over the world connected in support of Chai Cancer Care, the Jewish Community’s dedicated cancer support organisation at the Chai Manchester ‘The Moment’ Virtual Dinner on Thursday 25th June. ‘

Due to Covid-19, the Chai biennial North West Moment Dinner, which was planned to take place in The Hilton, Manchester turned virtual. One of the benefits was that anyone can join in from any location in the world and  there was a fantastic response with people tuning in, not only in Manchester but from across the UK, Europe, Israel, America and South Africa.

The tone for the evening was set with heartfelt words from long term supporter Jude Moryoussef

“Chai might have contemplated cancelling tonight altogether, but the dramatic impact of lockdown has brought an intensification of its responsibility. Chai wants and needs to be prepared. A cancer diagnosis carries with it a unique set of challenges; Not just for the patient but I have seen first-hand the invaluable support it offers to the whole family too.”

Hosting a virtual evening had many challenges. One being, trying to replicate the warm and inclusive atmosphere that characterises a Chai dinner. So, throughout the evening a number of Chai’s supporters had the opportunity to appear on screen to highlight and salute various aspects of the organisation, each one ending off with a L’Chaim to Chai.

‘The Moment’ theme carried throughout the evening as Chai Chairman, Louise Hager said:

“Last year when we began planning this event – the theme we chose was ‘The Moment’- how prescient was that! And what a moment we find ourselves in…

In our day-to-day lives, consciously or otherwise, we all strive to be in control. And if there’s one thing that this pandemic has shown us, it is how precarious our control really is – and how it can be lost in a moment.

Whilst this was a new experience for many of us – it is very much the story of a cancer diagnosis. Life is going on as normal and then – the doctor says the words no one wants to hear – “It’s cancer”

What we have all experienced during lockdown is what cancer patients experience every day of their lives.

There is, of course, another moment in the cancer journey. The moment a patient or a loved one turns to Chai and enters a transformative world of support and care.

Our specialised services have adapted to being delivered through telephone, Skype or Zoom. I deliberately chose not use the word ‘remotely’, because even though we currently are not able to deliver any services face- to- face – our dedicated local team, continue to uphold Chai’s ethos of providing a highly professional service, always delivered from the heart.

This ethos, runs throughout the entire organisation – it’s quite simply in our DNA – and it is as powerful today as it was 30 years ago when my dear mother Frances Winegarten z”l and Susan Shipman, had the determination and passion to ensure that no one in our community should have to live with the impact of a cancer diagnosis without support as they had.

Cancer has not stopped because of COVID-19, and neither has Chai.

The almost daily reports in the media of delays and cancelations of hundreds and thousands of screenings, surgeries and treatment is truly alarming. And then, there is an added factor – that for fear of catching coronavirus -many people have not gone to their GP after noticing unusual symptoms. In fact, this accounted for a 60% fall in urgent cancer referrals in England.

There is now considerable concern that there will be a  surge in the months ahead, as people start to feel more confident in seeking medical help again – as they are reassured that – thankfully – there are now many corona- free hubs in hospitals across the UK.

So, as the lockdown restrictions start to ease – what does it mean for Chai and how will we be able to meet-  not only the on-going demand – but also the inevitable influx of people who are just now starting to receive their diagnosis?

Because so many of our clients are immunocompromised and vulnerable  – understandably many will feel more secure using our Home Support Service, Our annual budget to provide our specialized services in the North West for North/South Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds is £400,000 and as Chai does not receive any statutory funding this will be a significant challenge.”

Over £100, 000 was raised, Louise comments:

“The  loyal support  and generosity of this community is so encouraging, especially in this uncertain financial situation.

Maureen Lipman CBE and honorary patron of Chai introduced her ensemble cast including David Baddiel, Howard Jacobson amongst others, reading publicly for the first time a recently unearthed manuscript of the last play written by the late Jack Rosenthal z’l, ‘Tell me on a Friday’.

After the appeal Maureen entertained everybody with her inimitable style and new material on ‘Shloch-down.’

Maureen said: “I am very proud to be associated with Chai- a charity like no other.”

Chai’s Chief Executive Lisa Steele’s bought the evening to a close promising that everyone would all ‘leave on a Chai’ and so they did! Chai is very conscious of the serious and emotive nature of the subject, so always aims to end their events on a positive and uplifting note.  Chai’s unofficial anthem ‘To life, to life, L’Chayim’ was performed by the most famous international stars who played Tevya – Chaim Topol, Dudu Fisher, Andy Nyman and Yehezkel Lazarov. View clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgULXwBO9Qw&fbclid=IwAR3saTOjXy400jZrhfq0e5rOrtXbOllEmR-x5Gme8vSGfiC3H3aHiJIALFs