In the shadow of the coronavirus | Op-ed in Jüdische Allgemeine

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In the shadow of the coronavirus | Op-ed in Jüdische Allgemeine

Published in Judische Allgemeine, May 8, 2020

By Ronald S. Lauder, World Jewish Congress President

The Covid-19 virus has created an unprecedented global crisis. Hundreds of thousands have died, millions have been sickened, and billions have bee quarantined. The whole of humanity has found itself contending with a common threat to life as we know it. Even as springs brings hopeful signs of subsidence, humankind is facing a gargantuan challenge.

The Jewish people have once again found themselves at the forefront of the struggle against a worldwide calamity. New York City has been an outsize 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. So, too, in other major European cities, chief among them Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Moscow. Jewish communities worldwide are experiencing loss, hardship and pain. But these same communities are demonstrating exceptional fortitude and cohesion. Their difficult hour is also their finest hour. At a time when darkness seems to be descending upon the world, they are lighting the heartening candles of dedication, determination and love.

Now, we must raise our eyes and look toward tomorrow. As the pandemic peaks and begins to abate, 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. As Jews, we will have to find new ways to conduct our communal life and the education of 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. Today more than ever, it is clear just how dependent we are on one another. And 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 Haredi 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.

The third challenge is anti-Semitism. As in the past, now in the present: a fatal biological epidemic is spawning a vicious torrent of anti-Semitism, endangering the lives of Jews. On this front, there is absolutely no room for compromise. We must stand as one against those who would destroy us. We must protect every Jew and every Jewish community that come under attack. Therefore, we must deploy the only remedy that can eradicate the virus of anti-Semitism: strength, strength and more strength. Only by standing united and resolute, can we hold back the resurgence of hatred that threatens to engulf us.

The fourth challenge is the State of Israel. Over the last few months, Israel has confronted the Coronavirus pandemic in a remarkable manner. Israelis have once again proven that they are strong and resilient, able to confront the crisis as one nation. But the pandemic has also created a certain tension between the Jewish state and Jews in the diaspora. Many felt frustrated because during their hour of need, they were prohibited from traveling to the state they see as their second home.
In order to contend with the dramatic challenges of 2020, the Jewish world must prepare and organize anew. First urgent need: an ambitious initiative to bring Israeli and other medical aid to Jewish communities ravaged by Coronavirus. Second: a global approach to waging war against anti-Semitism wherever it rears its ugly head. Also required are coordinated measures so that Jewish communities that have escaped the worst of the pandemic can help those suffering illness and devastation. Last but not least, intensive action in every community itself so the fortunate among us stand by those to whom fate has been so cruel.

But above all, we must renew the credo of one-for-all and all-for-one. We must re-embrace our age-old ethos of mutual responsibility and love-of-Israel. In the post-Coronavirus world, globalization will wane and nationalism will rise. Thus, we must act now, fostering the Jewish spirit of enlightened, generous, humanistic and democratic nationhood. And we must vow to confront all that still lies ahead with courage and determination — as a unified extended family.

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