Jewish News recently asked for people to nominate local heroes who are selflessly helping others during the coronavirus pandemic. While there are far too many to showcase, here is a small selection featuring some of our community’s best efforts:
Melanie Laban nominates her husband Eli, 61, who works for the United Synagogue Burial Society as Chevra Kadisha (a Jewish volunteer who prepares the dead for burial).
“One of his many jobs is to collect bodies from hospitals and homes and prepare them for burial,” she said.
“He comes into contact daily with people who have died from COVID-19 and never moans despite the risks he is facing.”
Saatchi Synagogue said Eli had been working 12-hour days for two weeks, and worked on the second and eighth day of Pesach for the first time ever.
“He has had the hardest fortnight of his life, carrying those who are no longer able to carry themselves,” the shul said in a statement.
Rosanna Rafel-Rix nominates her former co-worker Joshua Kleinman, 27, as a volunteer hero.
“I used to work with Josh and he is always on hand to help.
Josh has been selflessly offering to help anyone he can through the crisis by collecting and delivering urgent prescriptions, or collecting shopping, advertising his help on several Facebook groups and pages and helping those in need, even those he does not know. He is the definition of a mensch.”
Mum Michelle said he “decided to put his name forward to volunteer with many of the newly-formed charities set up to support the NHS and vulnerable people with the collection and delivery of goods and supplies.” Josh has been collecting and delivering for Woodside Park Synagogue, Corona Care Challenge and UCH as well as isolated individuals.
Dan Heller nominates Josh Dubell, 32, a business development manager at Masa Israel, who he knows through friends.
“He has been coordinating efforts across Barnet for Mutual Aid Volunteers to help people in the local area. They signed up more than 1,000 volunteers in just a few days and posted flyers to over 20,000 households in Finchley alone. He’s pulled together a digital/virtual team, most of whom he didn’t know before. It’s an astonishing effort.”
Dan said Josh’s work, which is focused around Finchley but extends borough-wide, helped the mutual aid network get established so quickly, but that it has been a team effort.
Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko nominates her friends’ son Ariel Sint, 28, who works in computer technology for Sky TV by day and uses a 3D printer to make free safety visors for NHS frontline workers by night.
“My husband is a senior hospital consultant and was saying how they desperately needed visors when my friends mentioned that their son Ariel was making them. Ariel works with seven others across north-west London throughout the night, together pumping out 200 per day. He grabs a few hours’ sleep, usually on the couch.”
It takes about an hour to make each visor, after Ariel got the time down from four hours, and they are distributed to hospitals around the UK.
“He has given his heart, soul and money to make them, and so far he and his colleagues have made and distributed about 50,000 visors, which has no doubt saved lives and prevented the spread of infection.”
Dana Cukier nominates Louisa Walters, 51, from Mill Hill, who he knows through shul. She is the founder of ‘The Restaurant Club, which has thousands of members who enjoy fine dining and eating out.
“Louisa came up with a brilliant initiative to support frontline NHS workers by feeding them free-of-charge on a regular basis, whilst simultaneously creating much-needed work and revenue for struggling local restaurants. From one Facebook appeal she raised an incredible £50,000 in less than two weeks and this has fed hungry and tired NHS workers in hospitals all over London.”
From an initial 1,000 meals a day, her efforts are set to double to 2,000 meals a day, after funding increased. She is also now starting to give hospital workers treats such as pastries and chocolates. “This much-needed GoFundMe appeal is still ongoing and I would urge people to consider donating.”
Ekaterina Barkho nominates her friend Daniel Benisty, a musician who created a Facebook group to help NHS staff in London that has become a one-stop shop for those sharing news, information and initiatives regarding things such as food, fundraising campaigns and PPE availability.
“He is using his van to bring them food and other useful items. He became jobless during, and due to, the crisis but he selflessly spends his time helping those who are saving lives. I think that is incredibly noble.”
The Facebook page lets those making personal protective equipment for NHS staff say what they have, allowing nurses and doctors to request them as needed. It also matches volunteers to hospitals and advertises free or subsidised services for NHS staff.