It’s the old, we’re told, that are most vulnerable to this virus. Yet while they’re best advised to stay inside their insight and per- spective should be brought to the fore, for it is only the old who can recall a time when we were placed on a war footing such as this. The young have never known it. Both must now deal with it.
Young and old will play their part in the difficult weeks and months to come, although the latter are more reliant on the former. All will be asked to cope with social and business upheavals that are nothing short of seismic, and it will be tough.
It already is. Mental strain does not begin at the age of 70. Jewish mental health charity JAMI said yesterday that it was seeing a surge in demand. Jewish employment charities say people are losing their jobs at a rate of knots. Jewish welfare chari- ties say they are getting five new referrals an hour. Their conservative estimate is that the number of Jewish families needing food parcels will double.
Yet this virus is having another, much deeper effect. Social interaction has left the face-to-face behind and gone online. This is an unknown world for many of our elderly and Orthodox community members. We do not underestimate this lack of familiarity. For a people that like to rub along, brush against and talk across, this virus is an enemy to be reckoned with. We’ve not spent years honing the elbow-tug just to sit at home and type.
Like you, we have also been affected. Since its inception, Jewish News has dedicated itself to the community, turning our pages over to the ups and downs and ins and outs of what we call ‘the Jewish community’. That community is now on-hold.
Or is it? Rocks are lifeless lumps but pick one up and you’ll see all sorts going on underneath. That is what is happening here. Yes, shuls are closed, events cancelled, weddings postponed, schools shut from Friday, but look local and you’ll see that connections are being made in new and different ways. It has been forced upon us by circumstance, but this is in fact a brave new Jewish world.
Volunteering at Jewish charities has skyrock- eted. Families are calling friends they’ve not called in ages. Neighbours are suddenly getting to know one another, albeit at a distance of two metres.
Coupons, like the ones we are publishing today on our back page, are being posted through let- terboxes by those offering help. Support lines are being set up. Facebook groups have sprung to life. Databases pairing need and provision are being created. Education is becoming virtual and with it more inclusive. In short, the Jewish community is still functioning, just very differently.
And as for Jewish News, don’t worry, we’re not about to suddenly start penning lofty high-browed prose. We’d much rather be in the mix, showcasing what’s being done by whom and how it can help, signposting this seismic shift in the way we do things and encouraging people to do what we’ve done for thousands of years: talk.
Meanwhile, Maureen Lipman (of whom some of you may have heard) has agreed to back our new ‘Keep Talking’ campaign. We are offering readers in lockdown the chance to chat to Maureen, any of our journalists or community leaders such as Raymond Simonson, chief executive of JW3 centre in Finchley Road. See page 13.
Why? Because it’s good to talk. Just ask the Maidenhead rabbi who this week set up a “telephone tree”, getting 100 congregants to each call eight others to check up on them.
As good as it is to talk, it is also good to know that when the virus-loaded droplet hits the fan, Jews show that they are just as inventive and innovative as they’ve always been, thinking outside the quarantine box to solve the problems posed by COVID-19.
As a newspaper, we’ll continue to chart the path we British Jews take through this public health emergency over the coming weeks and months. There have already been several nice surprises, chief among them a 3,000-year-old religion deftly uploading lit- urgy, live-streaming services, opening online hubs and broadcasting classes.
So, chin up, dear readers. We’ve known even worse than this.