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The Jewish Report Editorial

Caring on a global scale

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When a 12-storey residential building in a Jewish area in Florida collapsed at the end of last week, I had a hunch there would be connections to our community in South Africa.

Why, you might ask? It’s simple. We live in a global village, and our community is connected to Jews around the world.

Tali Feinberg, the journalist who worked on the story for the SA Jewish Report, admitted this week, she couldn’t really work out why I thought it would be a story for us. It was on the other side of the globe, and there was no particular reason for those involved to be related to us.

As it turns out, once she started investigating – which she does so well – she discovered that there were close connections to us, and the sadness and desperation felt by the Jewish community there was felt right here in Johannesburg. (See page 5.)

It turns out the rabbi whose congregants lived in that building is the brother of one of our foremost rabbis right here. And, when we were saying tehillim for those who were missing, a few of us were praying for people we knew.

This reiterated for me how we are all connected, and the pain of Jewish people in Israel, New Zealand, or the United States, is our pain too. One lost life is a lost family member, and the pain of those in our community is something that genuinely has an impact on all of us.

I would hope that, G-d forbid, if something should happen to our community, the Jewish world would be equally concerned and willing to help us. That’s who we are as a people. We have our faults, but we care and help wherever we can.

This is so clearly demonstrated right here with the incredible women who have made it their mission to help families with COVID-19. (See page 8.) I can’t believe the outpouring of generosity and kindness from people within our community. In many cases, they aren’t even being asked to help, they simply volunteer.

So, while there is so much death, illness, and sadness right now in our community, there is a truly remarkable flipside, which is the kindness and care with which people have responded.

“I can’t bear the thought that someone is sick and is lying in a bed somewhere believing nobody cares about them,” said one mother who spends every day cooking for families struck by COVID-19. This particular woman, who didn’t want to be named, has a full-time job and is a single mom. Free time isn’t something she has in abundance, yet she gives of it willingly to help those in need.

Meanwhile, in Russia, one of our own, boxing manager, trainer, and consultant Colin Nathan, lies sick in a hospital bed with COVID-19. Can you imagine what it’s like to be so ill and not be able to understand what’s going on around you because there’s a language issue?

As tough as this experience is for him, he is so impressed with the incredible kindness and care he is getting from the Chabad rabbi there, who was called on to help. (See page 3.) What was I saying about a global village and that intrinsic care within us?

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to escalate here, we face tough and frustrating times ahead with level 4 lockdown.

I do recognise the frustration and anger at this situation. I also understand why people are so angry with the government for not rolling out the vaccines fast enough, among other things.

It’s frustrating not to be able to spend a close-knit Shabbos with my beloved siblings and their families or a leisurely Sunday lunch with my besties at our favourite restaurant. The idea of letting my hair down with good friends on Saturday night is extremely appealing.

Having said that, the frustration is all about how we look at things. First, by avoiding those things I miss, I’m protecting myself and my loved ones from illness. That is a huge deal!

Then, there’s nothing wrong with spending time with immediate family in our home, doing things we often don’t have time for and enjoying our own company.

There are so many things we can find to do together or on our own in the comfort of our own home. And when you really are missing people, they are only a phone or Zoom call away. Yes, I know, it isn’t the same as being able to be in the same room, but it isn’t that bad. It’s what we make of it.

There are some pretty cool things about lockdown. I, for one, really enjoy not having to wake up at the crack of dawn to get my kids to school on time. There’s definitely a comfort factor in getting them ready a bit later to go to school online.

It’s also good to know where they are at all times and what they are up to – or is that being too much of a control-freak?

And when I do have to go out briefly, there is something peaceful about not getting stuck in traffic. The quiet in Johannesburg after 21:00 is really quite special too.

Having said all of that, there is the flipside of those people who are so ill and the angels who are saving their lives.

I’m in awe of those people who give so much of themselves to do this. The extent of this is so clear in Yosef Shishler’s piece about one night (right now) in his life as a Hatzolah volunteer. (See page 7.) This is a man with a busy legal practice and a young family, but he gives his precious time to save lives. And he’s not alone…

I know there are hardships in our lives right now, especially for those who are sick or have lost people they love. There are no words to compensate for your situation.

But I can say that you are surrounded by care and kindness, and all you need to do is reach out and someone will be there for you.

We are like that. We may fight. We may argue. We may even hold grudges, but we still care like crazy!

Stay home and stay safe!

Shabbat Shalom!

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