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Novosti News

24.4.2020. 22:16
Pismo predsjednika Svjetskog židovskog kongresa
The Jewish imperative of the coronavirus crisis

Ronald Lauder
President, World Jewish Congress

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented global crisis. Hundreds of thousands have died, millions have been sickened, and billions have been confined to their homes. Healthcare and economic systems have been stretched and strained, and many nations are facing a test the likes of which they have not encountered since 1945.

For many weeks now, the pandemic has disrupted our civilization. Life seems to have stopped in its tracks. The whole of humanity has found itself contending with a common threat to life as we know it.

Even as spring brings hopeful signs, humankind is facing a gargantuan challenge. As governments around the world set about easing restrictions and life begins to gradually, carefully and haltingly return, it is evident that the coronavirus has changed every one of us, creating a new historic reality.

The Jewish people have once again found themselves at the forefront of the struggle against a worldwide calamity. New York City has been an outsized victim of the pandemic, and some of its Jewish communities have been especially hard hit.

London, too, has suffered badly, and in some of its Jewish communities the number of cases has been especially high. The same is true in other major European cities, chief among them Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Moscow. From Borough Park to Golders Green, from Williamsburg to Stamford Hill, Jewish communities are experiencing loss, panic, hardship and pain.

However, these same communities are demonstrating exceptional fortitude and cohesion. Their difficult hour is also their finest. At a time when darkness seems to be descending upon the world, they are lighting the candles of dedication, determination and love.

Now we must raise our eyes and look toward tomorrow. As the pandemic peaks and begins to abate - with the resulting devastation plain for all to see - we must understand its implications for the near and far future of the Jewish people.

In the coming months, the Jewish world will have to confront the same challenge facing all nations: how to safeguard our lives and wellbeing as we renew business and economic activity. In order to find the right balance of life in the shadow of coronavirus, we must demonstrate prudence, ingenuity, self-discipline and creativity.

At the same time, we will have to find new ways to conduct our communal life and educate our children. The social-distancing we have all been compelled to undertake should become a tool of community-building and social-bonding. We must ensure that Jewish life isn’t enfeebled, but empowered.

The second challenge is solidarity. Like every family, the extended family of the Jewish people is tested in a time of crisis.

ON ONE HAND, enormous external pressure exacerbates internal tensions, often sharpening divisions that may descend into brotherly strife. On the other hand, today more than ever, it is clear just how dependent we are on one another. It is doubly clear that we must overcome that which divides us, rediscover what unites us, and above all, support one another.

The virus does not differentiate between ultra-Orthodox and Reform Jews. The economic implosion hurts liberals and conservatives alike. And the imperative to nurture a strong, unified Jewish community grows exponentially in the face of the dangers surrounding us. Now is the hour for unity and harmony, for a renaissance of Jewish solidarity.