As communities around the world grapple with the dire consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, Faina Kukliansky, the President of the WJC-affiliated Jewish Community of Lithuania spoke to Juedische-Allgemeine about her community’s response to the crisis and her priority of ensuring that its members are coping as best as possible.
The current situation is extraordinarily serious and “demands everything from us,” Kukliansky said, adding that she and her colleagues are cognizant that helping the elderly is particularly important in this difficult time.
"Many [of the elderly] don't have Internet, so we try to call these people regularly to check up on them,” said Kukliansky.
Some students and community members have started initiatives to bring groceries to the elderly, including Matzot, for the upcoming holiday of Pesach, she noted. “I am very proud of all the people who are helping now,” Kukliansky said, adding: “we still have to be careful that we won’t lose the people helping in the social facilities to the sickness. They have to stay healthy.”
“I am pleased that we are very much holding together now,” said Kukliansky. “Be it churches or synagogues – everyone is doubling efforts and being there for each other.”
“What concerns us now is not only how we will organize Pesach for community, but above all how things will go in the future. If the situation cannot be alleviated, there may be unforeseen social consequences, such as high unemployment violence, and acts of aggression,” Kukliansky said.
“The Lithuanian government is working hard and is providing reliable information, but this is also a time to realize that we have to help each other – and not fight each other.”
One question is already worrying her: What's going to happen afterwards? What happens when people despair, or have lost their jobs and cannot return to work in other countries?
"Things won't be better here in Lithuania - quite the opposite," she said.
"What concerns us now is not only how we organize the Passover for all these people, but above all the question of how the economy will continue.” If the situation cannot be cushioned, Kukliansky also fears violence, aggression and high unemployment, and other unforeseeable social consequences, would be dire. “It is the time to understand that we have to help each other - and not fight each other,” said Kukliansky.
Even the antisemitic attacks of recent months are not an issue at the moment, she said, "at least so far…. Maybe tomorrow it will be different again. But at the moment we are not experiencing anything like that."