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Six weeks and making us count

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SHAUN ZAGNOEV

Just as critical is the pressing need to assist those who face total destitution as a result of the lockdown to the point of being unable to put food on their tables. While it’s up to government to assume the leading role in this regard, the magnitude of the challenge means that everyone who is in the fortunate position of being able to contribute should strive to do so.

At both individual and organisational level, it has been inspiring to see how wholeheartedly the Jewish community has thrown itself into this crucial work. The regional branches of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) have all taken on this challenge.

In Gauteng, we have partnered with the Angel Network and others in implementing the CAN (Community Action Network) project, in terms of which a group of people – it could be a study group, book club, or simply a group of friends – works together to assist people in need, particularly in alleviating hunger. It’s a genuine ground-up initiative, operating through community partnerships between suburb, informal settlement, and township.

The members of the SAJBD Gauteng Council, for one, are championing Loving Classroom South Africa, which donates food parcels, hand sanitisers, and face masks to the children of schools they work with; the Yenzani Vuka Skhokho non-profit organisation, which provides for 600 recyclers currently unable to pursue a livelihood; and assisting families and a school in Riverlea, an extremely poor coloured area of Johannesburg. The Temple Israel Heritage Centre is involved in helping Congolese, Nigerian, and other foreign migrants in Hillbrow, Yeoville, and Bellevue, and supporting a children’s home in Midrand. This is in addition to raising funds for relief organisations such as the Angel Network itself, in which members of our community are playing a leading role.

The SAJBD is documenting the various relief initiatives that Jewish organisations and community members are involved in, whether under the CAN banner or otherwise. We welcome all feedback on what is being done to point others wishing to get involved in the right direction, as well as to record how South African Jewry has responded to the challenge of these times.

In tandem with helping to alleviate severe hardship in general society, the Board has continued to look to the needs of its own constituents. Throughout this difficult period, our COVID-19 online platform has provided guidance about the community’s decisions, ongoing medical guidance, mental health and support, and legal advice where necessary. Now, as we approach a phased lifting of the lockdown, our focus has turned to financial relief. We will regularly post guidance on critical issues relating to relief offerings. I urge everyone who has been affected to avail themselves of this resource.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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