The Jewish Benevolent Association Somej-Nophlim has lived in three centuries. It was founded in the 19th century, more precisely in 1865. It was through Somej-Nophlim that the Jewish Hospital was opened in 1916 and was vital for the support given to the refugees who passed through Lisbon during the Second World War. To this day, this Association continues to provide aid for the needy.
In its 150 years of existence, Somej-Nophlim has supported many families and individuals, often quite anonymously and ensuring privacy. We cannot forget the many people of the boards of directors who contributed to this cause: Simão Anahory, its founder; Salomão Levy Júnior; Miriam Levy; Mary Ruah; Gabi Goldschmit Ferreira; Maria Antonieta Becker-Weinberg and, today, the current president Susana Arié.
All of them were and continue to be the protagonists of the development of benevolent work on behalf of the needy people in our community. How is the Association’s work carried out in today’s world?
All support work is carried out by voluntary members of the Board. Each month they organize a number of actions for the beneficiaries of this aid, promoting contacts and home visits, attempting in this way to establish ties of proximity and aid. These contacts and visits are very necessary to help gather information on each specific case, allowing the Association to provide the support that is most suited to each situation. Some people might only need guidance and advice, but in more vulnerable situations financial aid is given, enabling the beneficiaries to pay for expenses they would otherwise not be able to afford, even if temporarily, without the support of Somej-Nophlim. Unforeseen expenses can sometimes appear, in particular urgent repairs or the purchase of material goods, such as small domestic appliances; help buying food baskets or medication and support for the Jewish education of children and youngsters.
This financial support is only possible through constant fund raising. A number of initiatives are organized which are addressed to many bodies, donors and sponsors. Acquiring more members is vital to ensure the continuous growth of the Association.
Each year, Somej-Nophlim organizes a large meeting to share in and celebrate its labors, providing an excellent opportunity for the Association’s volunteers and friends to meet and create bonds, which in itself promotes the participation of many generations. These include Afternoon Tea, and more recently the Sunset Cocktail.
Sadly, 2020 was marked by the COVID –19 pandemic and it was necessary to completely restructure the Association's activity in order to guarantee assistance to the beneficiaries. There has been an increase of requests for help. Fears and the entire legal framework relating to social activities and physical contact brought great limitations to the association's activity, which forced an increased effort in the Management's activity. Even with all the difficulties that the pandemic brought, Somej Nophlim never stopped supporting those most in need, having continued to support its beneficiaries in person and financially.
Other events of this kind were planned for 2020 and 2021. However, after March 2020, the date of the first general confinement, the Association’s entire activity had to be restructured to ensure the continued support of beneficiaries. Requests for help increased. The fears about the pandemic and the legal framework regarding social activities and physical contact greatly limited the Association’s activity and led to added endeavors on the part of the Board. Even with all the difficulties caused by the pandemic, Somej-Nophlim never stopped supporting the neediest, and has continued to provide financial aid and home support to its beneficiaries.
Having existed for more than 150 years, Somej-Nophlim witnessed difficult periods in the history of humanity, with two World Wars and the Spanish Flu in the 1920s. It has constantly reinvented its role as supporter of those in most need in times of crisis. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it organized online activities such as the Mega Challah Bake, a joint project of CIL and The Shabbat Project, and Jewish cooking classes, to raise funds for the increased requests for help, while at the same time preserving the spirit of unity between volunteers and members during their day to day tasks.
Somej-Nophlim has great expectations for its 2022 activities and hopes that, once again, it may organize in-person activities which are essential to develop its work and its spirit of solidarity, on behalf of social justice, one of the main pillars that has accompanied the entire culture of Tzedakah in Jewish culture.