Shtetl under attack

  • DanielleSack
It’s official: the shtetl is under attack.
by DANI SACK | Jul 09, 2020

After months of hibernation, when we are finally allowed back into the world of shopping, work, and school, the virus enters our community.

While it was inevitable, it arrived quickly. One moment I was finally finishing my first set of prelims, the next I was afraid even to enter the school grounds out of fear that the “chaleria” (as my beloved Yiddishe grandparents call it) was lurking in the shadows, waiting to jump out at me and further ruin my matric year.

After a rather panicky Thursday, filled with COVID-19 rumours and muddled thoughts about said rumours, I returned home from school to go through the usual motions: shoes off, bags in a separate room to be sanitised, matric jacket deposited in the dryer, and straight to my room to get changed out of my contaminated clothes.

When I finally sat down for lunch, I took the time to reflect on the day. My first thought was, “Today was weird.” I guess you could say that about every single day since the beginning of March this year, but I think it was more strange because I had finally come to terms with the fact that COVID-19 was real and scarily close.

Before the virus started affecting those I know and live amongst, I was aware of its existence and took the necessary precautions. However, it wasn’t until that Thursday that I truly felt the virus – not because I was sick, but because the people around me were sick.

I started recognising names on the tehillim lists, familiar faces getting tested, and that’s when it hit me: this is real. More real than it was in March or April during lockdown.

COVID-19 is sitting next to me at school, walking alongside my sister on Long Avenue, joining my mother on shopping trips to Moishes, and my father on his limited visits to work.

COVID-19 has made friends with my family, my friends, my community. It scares me more than “the Rona” or “the chaleria” because it’s no longer a joke, something about which to make up funny nicknames. It’s here, and it’s waiting on our doorsteps. However, while the shtetl is under attack, we are privileged to have the appropriate arsenal to fight the virus. We are armed with sanitisers, masks, bottles of soap, and most importantly, seichel (common sense).

We have our amazing frontliners, the essential workers, doctors, and other healthcare professionals without whom this would surely be a losing battle.

We have those who are helping behind the scenes, donating, collating collections for food, blankets, and anything else required by those in need.

To those infected by COVID-19, we are supporting you throughout this difficult time, sending you strength, and praying for you constantly.

Those of us who, like myself, don’t necessarily fall into that category know the rules: limit contact with others, wear your mask at all times when outside your home, sanitise your hands, wash them for at least 20 seconds, and stay vigilant.

With these people and weapons in our armoury, we can strike back at this unseen enemy. I’m confident that as long as we, as a community, look after each other, then we’ve got this.

If all else fails, we’ll have to call in the big guns – Jewish chutzpah. If COVID-19 manages to beat that, then we’re truly doomed.

  • Dani Sack is a Grade 12 pupil at Yeshiva College


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