The Jewish Report Editorial

Doing good is good for you too

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When our community looks back on the time of COVID-19, it will remember being entertained, informed, and educated by SA Jewish Report-hosted webinars, or as they are known, ‘SAJR lockdown events’.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | May 14, 2020

No, I’m not about to start honking my own horn because, truth be told, the exceptional work done in these webinars has been that of SA Jewish Report board chairperson Howard Sackstein, Dan Stillerman, and our newspaper’s board of directors. Every one of them has given freely of their time and effort.

What they have achieved appears to be unique the world over. I’m not saying that Zoom or YouTube webinars are unique, in fact they are a dime a dozen these days, but what our team has done is to extend our media company into a whole new platform. This Tuesday’s education panel was the 18th of our webinars. There have been at least two to three every week since lockdown began.

Our smallest panel had 2 000 viewers, and our largest so far has attracted 20 000 viewers. These numbers are astounding. They don’t just represent our community, but Jewish people from around the world and the greater South African society. In interaction with the audience on the webinars, people have introduced themselves as from the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and Israel.

Howard and the board have managed to gather experts in their field. For example, on Tuesday night, they had the likes of Adam Habib among other influential voices speaking about education, and previously, Stephen Koseff and Colin Coleman talking about restarting the economy. So it goes on.

In the latter webinar, last Tuesday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni wanted to engage with the panel but because there was no space for him in the audience, he couldn’t join in. And just as soon as that event was over, the presidency called for a copy.

In the process, large amounts of money have been raised for those in need, and people have been incredibly generous. These events have facilitated the setting up of more than 30 Community Action Networks (CANs) and, in so doing, hundreds and hundreds of needy families have been helped.

During the webinars, various charities or non-governmental organisations have been brought on screen. Whenever Afrika Tikkun was on, it raised about R200 000 in donations from the webinar alone. Since the beginning of lockdown, this particular organisation has provided 40 000 families with month-long feeding packs so that they don’t need other sources of sustenance. That’s astonishing!

Another organisation that has been invited to the lockdown events is Afrika Awake, which provides food parcels for refugees who would otherwise starve as they don’t have access to government help.

I’m sure, like me, you are impressed by the innovation of these webinars, which not only give us something entertaining and informative to do during lockdown, but also raise so much money for those who don’t have any.

For Howard, I know it’s about doing good. When he came up with this idea before lockdown, he called on Dan, who he knew had a Zoom licence. The rest is history, as this inimitable team have kept going with passion and tenacity without earning a personal cent from it.

I’m not hearing them complain or speak about being frustrated about the lockdown. I’m not hearing them blame others for the fact that they are stuck behind four walls and can’t do what they want to do. I guess this is simply because they are so busy doing something good.

I totally appreciate that as time goes on and there are still such heavy restrictions on our lives, people get more and more frustrated. And when the government does something they don’t approve of, it makes them reconsider their support for the national plan of action against COVID-19.

People have already started pushing the boundaries of the law. A sense of frustration has led some to flout the law. I can’t say I’m surprised. We are all feeling it. It seems like a never-ending lockdown, with financial and other pressures growing, and there’s no end in sight.

But is spending time criticising the government and other authorities a worthwhile use of our time? Is bucking the system and potentially making vulnerable people sick worth it?

Or can we do something to help the situation, thereby being the change we want to see in the world?

You don’t have to look too far to find something worthwhile to do.

Every week in the SA Jewish Report we bring you stories of the people I call “COVID-19 heroes” who are doing phenomenal things for the good of our community or the greater society. All these people could use your help.

On our front page this week, there is a story about the South African Jewish Board of Deputies offering R9 million for outreach programmes to help those in our country in dire straits. The people involved need help packing parcels, getting food, distributing – I can’t say exactly what. However, help is always needed. Just reach out if you can.

I know it’s easy to say it’s about attitude, and when it all gets on top of you, it doesn’t seem possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me, I understand. But staying in that dark place doesn't help you, and it certainly won’t make lockdown easier for you.

So, let’s be inspired by Howard, Dan, and the hundreds of people who have made COVID-19 an opportunity to help others, and do something worthwhile and good.

Let’s all do something, whether it’s collecting food from neighbours to give to those in dire need, helping to pack food parcels, or making a donation. Let’s lend a hand!

Shabbat Shalom!

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