Our Response in a Time of Crisis

Yael Eckstein  |  March 17, 2020

Prayers at Western Wall, March 2020

Listen above to audio of our Fellowship Family meeting, where Yael shares what’s happening right now in Israel, including the impact of the coronavirus and how The Fellowship is responding by helping those who desperately need it the most.

Usually, in Israel, this is an extremely busy time of year. People are out and about getting ready for Passover – which is just a few weeks away – buying special Passover foods, new clothing, and all kinds of home goods to enhance the holiday.

This year however, everything is different.

Israel is on lockdown as we try to slow the spread of the lethal coronavirus. Schools, restaurants, and many businesses are closed and people are encouraged to stay home as much as possible. Supermarkets are open but are required to limit the amount of shoppers inside. Similar restrictions have been enacted in parts of Europe, and are being enacted in parts of the U.S.

Instead of typically large Passover celebrations with family and friends, this year’s Passover is going to look more like the original in the Bible – families shuttered inside their homes, waiting for the plague to pass.

There for the Most Vulnerable

And yet, even as we take necessary precautions to protect our loved ones and ourselves, we cannot forget those who need our help the most. Here at The Fellowship, we always dedicate this time of year to distributing food and Passover items to Jews in need. I can’t tell you how grateful and blessed I feel to be able to say that, thanks to you, our faithful supporters, this year will be no exception.

While we are re-organizing our procedures in order to ensure the health and safety of our aid recipients, staff, and volunteers, we haven’t slowed down – in fact, we’ve done just the opposite.

We’ve moved immediately to create a $5 million emergency fund to cope with the impact of this disease. Through this fund, in addition to providing for the 15,000 elderly The Fellowship already serves with our With Dignity and Fellowship ministry, we’ll be able to help an additional 15,000 people in dire need.  And we will be able to provide lifesaving emergency equipment for hospitals and emergency teams. Our commitment is to make sure everyone can celebrate Passover with joy and in good health.

“Join Our Passover”

The focus of Passover is the seder meal that is held on the first night of the weeklong holiday. It is an interactive experience that relies on biblical texts, traditions, and songs that help us tell the amazing Passover story: how God freed his people from slavery with great miracles and wonders.

Interestingly, the first text that we recite at the seder is a call to anyone in need of a meal. We announce, “Let all who are hungry come and eat – let all who are in need join our Passover.”

We focus on feeding the hungry at this particular time to remind us that we cannot celebrate our freedom while forgetting those that are still enslaved – enslaved to poverty, to hunger, or to being a victim of any sort of difficult circumstance. As we celebrate our freedom, we must remember those who are living a life they did not choose, and do our part to bring them some joy and comfort on the Passover holiday.

Freedom to Choose Life

This year, I see an additional lesson in our Passover celebration.

In times of uncertainty, fear, and difficulty, we must, of course, care for ourselves and our loved ones.  Yet, we cannot forget about the most vulnerable among us who have no one to care for them. There is no greater expression of freedom than choosing to be generous and kind even when we ourselves are struggling. Our human instinct is to look out for our own survival. Our divine soul reminds us that we were created in order to care for others.

As we celebrate our freedom during this Passover season, we must exercise our freedom to choose life – to take care of ourselves and to take care of others, to choose faith over fear, and to recognize the many blessings that God showers upon us at all times – even hard times like the ones we are living through right now.

My friends, please know that even as you have held up Israel and her people in prayer, we are praying for you. Judaism maintains that performing kind deeds serves as a protection from harm. As we bless and help others, God will surely bless us and protect us, remembering the biblical promise, “The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life” (Psalm 121:7).

To this I can only add: Amen!

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael Eckstein's Signature