Last month, rabbis from around the world joined together to launch the #KeepingItTogether campaign, calling on all Jews to unite against coronavirus. This declaration represents a concerted effort to aid in fight against COVID-19, coming after millions of worldwide coronavirus diagnoses. In the letter, signed by the chief rabbis from Israel, France, Russia, England, Argentina, Brussels, Rome, and South Africa, Jews everywhere were urged to “adhere -– with total commitment -– to the health and safety protocols as set out by the country.”
The rabbis’ call for global unity has sparked an international effort to reaffirm a commitment to Jewish values, prompting many to reflect on their actions, as well as the actions of those in their community.
“We have obligations to do things that are helpful to a community of people,” wrote Elanor Mintz, 96, of Dunwoody, Georgia, in the New York Times reflecting on celebrating Passover under lockdown. “We take that obligation seriously. … That is what we do.”
Mintz is not alone. From Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, Jews around the world have begun thinking about how to make a difference in the lives of those who are struggling.
Robert Kraft flies in aid for coronavirus workers
In March, Robert Kraft, owner of the NFL New England Patriots, ordered the Patriot’s jet to China, where the jumbo jet picked up 1.2 million N95 masks to help ease the shortage of critical supplies for American medical workers in the fight against COVID-19.
“This is the greatest country in the world,” Kraft told CNN. “It’s time for us to rally together and solve these kinds of issues.”
Sheldon Adelson commits to extending pay to his employees
Kraft’s supply came just a week before another notable member of the Jewish community, Sheldon Adelson, made the announcement that he would pay his 10,000 employees until at least May 17. Adelson’s announcement came after he shut the doors to his casinos in Las Vegas in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Nevada. Adelson, a close ally of President Donald Trump and a longtime Republican donor, has been applauded by people across the political spectrum.
An opportunity to reaffirm our Jewish values
While many in the Jewish community have engaged in profound acts of generosity, others have sought to leverage the suffering of others for personal gain.
In Brooklyn, according to the New York Post, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the home of Baruch Feldheim, 43, who was allegedly stockpiling, price-gouging, and selling a considerable number of N95 masks. Feldheim is also facing assault charges for allegedly coughing on an officer and allegations that he made false statements to federal investigators.
Feldheim’s brazen act of selfishness has prompted many in the community to reaffirm their commitment to Jewish values, as well as call out those in the community who continue to prey on the needy during this extraordinary crisis.
Those called out for their greed include lenders and property owners Scott Asner and Michael Gortenberg. Asner and Michael Gortenburg, partners in a corporation called Eighteen Capital Group, have been called out by prominent community members –- including a civil rights activist writing in the Kansas City Star –- for practicing what amounts of predatory lending practices that target the poor.
As the world passes millions of infections –- with many more predicted to fall ill in the coming months –- life as we know it has been upended. This crossroads has presented people of all stripes to take stock of our values and reaffirm our commitments. During this time of uncertainty, Jewish people everywhere have an obligation to head the words of the chief rabbis who urge us all to come together to fight coronavirus.