By David Saffer
British Jewry must follow government regulations with the nation in the grip of the Covid storm.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the country into a third lockdown yet day after day there is news of violations across the country with unlawful gatherings and precautions being ignored.
Community leaders and business people back the latest measures.
The Jewish community has experienced its deadliest week in terms of fatalities since the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in April. Tragically 43 funerals took place in the week ending January 8th where the deceased contracted Covid-19. There have been 691 Jewish funerals in total to date.
The latest figures make grim reading and Board of Deputies President, Marie van der Zyl, has written about the latest statistics in this week’s edition with a clear message.
“We must follow government guidance scrupulously to protect our older and more vulnerable loved ones, as well as the health system on which we all rely,” she said.
Supermarkets are now tightening guidelines. As an illustration where the Jewish community is not immune, Kosher Kingdom in Golders Green is a flagship retail outlet that has worked tirelessly to implement safety measures to create the safest possible shopping environment. Aside from full time crowd control at the entrance, there is a limit in number of shoppers and reminders to wear masks. Sanitising is visibly apparent, yet, they experience issues over safety efforts for customers.
A spokesperson for Kosher Kingdom told The Jewish Weekly their efforts are recognised by most, but there has been negative feedback about the level of stringencies in place and criticism they are not doing enough. Requests to follow rules are also ignored.
There are difficult issues. “Policing individual shoppers is not a realistic expectation,” KK’s spokesman said. “There are legitimate instances where customers are not required to wear a mask or must shop with children and these exceptions cannot be judged. If you are exempt from wearing a mask in places required, be prepared to show your exemption certificate.”
They added, “To stop the spread, everyone needs to take a step back and play their part.”
Kosher Kingdom have called on shoppers to respect staff, even if you do not believe them, stop congregating in general and in shops, and try not to bring children shopping.
“If you must shop with children, consider those old enough to wear a mask to wear one,” they said. “Children are known to be carriers and can spread the virus. When asked to follow guidelines, say thank you for caring. Do not wait for someone near and dear to be affected, it may be too late.”
For concerned community members, the United Synagogue has a dedicated coronavirus helpline. Community volunteers and US staff offer members practical advice or a friendly ear for those struggling to cope. The helpline can point people in the right direction for practical support such as shopping or cooking, spiritual and emotional support. All calls are confidential.
The helpline number is 020 8343 5696 (Monday to Thursday 9am-5pm, Friday 9am-1pm).
Outside these hours community members can leave a message and someone will call back.
Those wishing to email can contact the US at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Minsky, US Chesed department, said: “We know that the new lockdown will bring with it many difficulties for our communities. Having to adjust to home schooling, juggling work and family commitments and worrying about job security or finding work is piling on pressure at an already difficult time. The confidential helpline is here to help members find support during the pandemic. Nobody should be afraid to ask for help.”
US shuls remain open at the discretion of communities. Eleven are operational operating government guidelines. As an additional precautionary measure, shuls are reducing capacities. An average service has 15-20 people allowing mourners to say kaddish and families to celebrate a simcha in a limited way. But the situation is changing daily and the US will continue to monitor it.