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SA Jews step up to the plate




When Bradley Stern heard President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the nation on Sunday, 15 March, the president’s message that those who have resources must look out for the weak and vulnerable stood out for him. With a marketing agency that works with the department of basic education in schools, Stern knew that nine million children rely on national school feeding schemes across the country, but with schools closing, they wouldn’t be fed.

He and his brother, Jared Stern, quickly set up a “Cans with Purpose” campaign to generate donations to buy canned foods. The response was overwhelming, and they raised more than R100 000 in just over a week. All donations are now going through Afrika Tikkun, which looks after 9 000 underprivileged children and their families.

Chabad House’s Rabbi David Mazinter handed out sanitisers at taxi ranks to the underprivileged, saying, “There are such small things one can do that can make such a substantial impact on others who are feeling desperation and panic. Something as small as distributing a few hand sanitisers, or even mielie meal or rice, can really help someone to get through the hard days that lie ahead of us.”

Cadena South Africa and the South African Friends of Israel with Pastor Allan of the Be Blessed Church handed out information and hand sanitisers in Thokoza, Gauteng.

Anna Shevel has set up a National Civil Response Platform called that matches care with need. Organisations in need can be mapped so that individuals can support them with volunteering or donations.

Organisations that assist animals will struggle under lockdown conditions. Yael Fialkov is a co-founder of African Tails, an organisation that saves street dogs. “African Tails hosted a pet-food drive on 25 March. This was distributed to the local communities we serve to help them to continue to care for their pets at this time.”

The organisation has had to cancel its adoption and sterilisation drives. “We encourage all our supporters to reach out to the needy in their community and assist where possible, as the strain on the animal welfare sector in general will be tremendous. Our plea is for our supporters to continue to donate goods, money, and share the animals in need of homes on social media,” says Fialkov. “Please also spread the word that there is no evidence that the virus can be spread between domestic animals and humans.”

Many other Jewish community members assisted with packing food parcels and delivering them to those in need, fundraising, organising volunteers, and co-ordinating efforts.

Jewish change-makers network, Mensch, is working closely with formal organisations and informal initiatives, and has created a list of them on its website. “Now that the shutdown is upon us, the best way to help vulnerable communities is by financially supporting the organisations already set up to serve them,” says Mensch founder Gina Flash.

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