None of us has ever seen anything like COVID-19. So we have no handbooks to tell us how we should respond to something so debilitating that demands intense initiative and creativity. Fortunately, there are organizations and individuals within our communities that have responded with empathy and innovation.
Take Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who attracted national attention last week when he secured 500,000 coronavirus testing kits from South Korea. The announcement followed a month of talks between Hogan’s administration and South Korean officials, helped along by Hogan’s Korean-born wife, Yumi. The success of that effort will make a profound difference for Marylanders, since greater testing capacity will help gauge the magnitude of infection within the state, and allow policymakers to make informed decisions about next steps, including when and how to reopen the state’s economy.
But it isn’t just government that’s making a difference. On April 20, a group of seven Jewish foundations announced the creation of the $80 million Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund to help struggling Jewish organizations weather the pandemic. The participating foundations are all well known in our community, and have rallied to provide assistance and support to local Jewish communal organizations that are at risk. We salute the Aviv Foundation; Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; Mandel Foundation; Jim Joseph Foundation; Maimonides Fund; Paul E. Singer Foundation; and Wilf Family Foundation, and applaud their generosity and continuing good work.
Then there are those individuals who lead by example, like the appreciative COVID-19 survivors from New York’s Orthodox community who have been donating plasma to provide antibodies developed in the recovery process. Led by Dr. Shmuel Shoham, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, and Chaim Lebovits, in Monsey, N.Y., the initiative has attracted the participation of thousands of COVID-19 survivors in a classic effort to pay it forward. With the support and encouragement of rabbis and communal organizations in haredi communities that have been hard hit by the virus, thousands of survivors have donated plasma to help victims from all walks of life survive and recover.
Through their acts of kindness, these donors have changed much of the narrative about several densely populated Orthodox communities that were, at first, slow to recognize the severity of the threat and to embrace restrictive communal measures.
There are, of course, other impressive government, organizational and citizen efforts that are worthy of comment and praise. We are grateful for those as well, and we applaud the ongoing heroic performance of medical personnel in hospitals, care facilities and throughout our communities, and the service personnel who respond to our needs and enable us to shelter in place in our homes. We salute all of the brave and caring people who have done what they can to make our world a safer place.