The Jewish Report Editorial

How things have changed

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It’s so ironic that we have had a mini resurgence in the community of COVID-19, and it’s due to private parties that became super spreaders.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Oct 22, 2020

When the first people in our community came down with what we then knew as “the coronavirus”, they brought it into South Africa from the United States, where they also contracted it at a party.

It was so new then, and we really had no idea what we were dealing with. The names of those who contracted it and their families were spoken of in hushed tones, almost as if they had something to be ashamed of. We were almost afraid of them. In some cases, people were ostracised for just being related to – not even having been in contact with – those who had tested positive. We also feared the absolute worst.

The first man who revealed that he had it was considered brave, especially because he went on to put out videos of his experience of the virus. Watching them was absorbing as we had no idea what this virus was going to do.

Then, one woman (from the same party) was treated abominably because she went to a function before she knew she had the virus. It was so ugly, but I guess we were all scared and ignorant. All this occurred before lockdown and before the worst of the virus hit us.

Since that time, so much has changed.

People are no longer horrified to hear that someone they know has the virus. And the truth is, while we still don’t know how we will be affected, there is a sense for most of us that we will pull through. I do believe that unless you have comorbidities, that terror has gone. Therein lies the problem.

So, going back to finding out about those first few people in the community who got the virus, we quickly learnt about social distancing and wearing masks. Schools closed fast, and so did shuls. In both cases, it was with a heavy heart for those at the helm as it meant the centres of our education and religion were closed to us. This was difficult for all concerned.

School leadership worked tirelessly to be able to teach children online, and they did such a remarkable job. It stretched even the most fearless and up-to-date of teachers and educators.

Then, the work that went into opening the shuls took much time and effort. There was such determination to enable us to go back to shul in safety. And we did.

Now, as we are in lockdown alert level one, there is a sense of freedom and carelessness that is contagious. Everyone is sick and tired of wearing masks and keeping their distance. And so, they still do it in public. They do it at schools. In shopping centres. At shuls.

But, it seems, the rules are treated differently in our own space.

The truth is, I would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t take some chances – some more than others. This is genuinely understandable, but dangerous. Far be it for me to encourage this behaviour. We all have to live our own lives, but COVID-19 is still very much with us and doesn’t give a damn who it attacks.

The shock is that the party where this started spreading was attended by young people in their 20s, and at least one of them landed up in hospital.

When we spoke about doing this story, Tali Feinberg and I were very clear about one thing. We weren’t going to name and shame anyone because it could have happened to any of us.

We have no right to do that to anyone because they were simply unlucky in taking a chance. If every party (big or small) that has been held in the past three weeks was a super spreader, most of us would be COVID-19 positive.

However, suddenly there are way too many people in our community who are sick with COVID-19, and too many in hospital. It’s ironic that in spite of all the efforts from communal leaders to safeguard us in schools and shuls, people contracted the virus in homes.

The point is, it’s time to wake up! We can’t take unnecessary risks as the virus is still with us and just looking for the moment to hit us. And while we may not get very ill with it, we may give it to someone else.

Now is the toughest time to take precautions because we all just want to be free and enjoy being back to having a semblance of normality in our lives. However, this upsurgence in our community is a warning to us all. We have to look out for ourselves and our loved ones.

We can’t allow the virus to resurge to where it was in July and August. Please enjoy your freedom with all the precautions necessary.

Beth Din

Last week, we ran a story about the Beth Din’s kosher desk and the people making allegations against it. And, so many people jumped on the bandwagon with lots more ugliness. Isn’t that just our worst quality?

Well, while all the questions and allegations are yet to be answered or specifically responded to, the board of the Union of Orthodox Synagogues heard us. I believe that setting up an ombudsman to deal with manufacturers’ and producers’ issues is potentially an excellent solution. I’m especially impressed by the calibre of person selected to take on this task. Also, I understand there are other plans afoot in addition to this first step.

Yes, I know, there are those among us who will still find fault in this and, I agree, the proof is in the proverbial pudding. We won’t know how well this will work until it is tried and tested, but I’m so excited that the board didn’t come out guns blazing in retaliation. Instead, it looked at how it could make a plan to sort out this crisis. And I can’t imagine a better way to deal with it.

Kol hakavod to you! This is a great start, and I look forward to seeing how it all pans out.

Shabbat Shalom!


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