Saturday, 6 Jun 2020 - 14 of Sivan, 5780

Three deaths of coronavirus in the Jewish community of Antwerp, says crisis cell leader

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

‘’Across the world, the orthodox communities in New York, London, Manchester, Bnei Brak or Antwerp don’t have television and internet. They don’t use smartphones but phones that are ‘’kosher’’ and used only for calling and nothing else. They don’t read local newspapers but only community papers, preferably in Yiddish. These newspapers are not published these days.’’

 

The Jewish community in Antwerp has recorded three deaths from coronavirus so far, said Charly Gotlib, the president of the crisis cell of the community, as he corrected, in an interview with European Jewish Press, previous information affirming that  85% of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews of the crity would be infected by the virus and that at least 550 people would die.

‘’It was a bad interpretation of an interview given by Belgian Jewish MP Michael Freilich, to a newspaper,’’ said Gotlib. Around 20,000 Jews live in Antwerp, the capital of Belgium’ Flanders region.

‘’We sent corrections saying that his comments were misinterpreted. Until now we have in total three deaths in the Jewish community of Antwerp from coronavirus, all elderly people. Two from the Georgian community and the third is the wife of the chief rabbi of one of the ultra-orthodox communities,” he told EJP.

He explained that the main problem in these times with the ultra-orthodox communities in Antwerp is the language – they don’t speak Flemish- and the access to information.

‘’Across the world, the orthodox communities in New York, London, Manchester, Bnei Brak or Antwerp don’t have television and internet. They don’t use smartphones but phones that are ‘’kosher’’ and used only for calling and nothing else. They don’t read local newspapers but only community papers, preferably in Yiddish. These newspapers are not published these days.’’

During the first week of the crisis, they weren’t aware of the danger and continued to pray in minyanim and yeshivas, until we passed the message in a language they understand.

‘’We have translated all the official documents in Yiddish and Hebrew and we posted them in all kosher food shops. So in the beginning they were very vulnerable.’’

Following this, the chief rabbis of the two main haredi communities Shomre Hadas and Machsike Hadas have made videos largely posted on whatsapp to warn the community.

Since then the people have followed the safety measures ordered by the government.

Gotlib said his cell is in constant contact with the Governor of the Province of Antwerp, ‘’who is a very good friend of the Jewish community’’ and has very good relations with the police. ‘’We certainly don’t ask police not to intervene within the community, on the contrary,’’ he said. Police in Belgium has been ordered to control that people observe the government measures in the framework of the partial lockdown ordered until April 19.

In view of the Pesach (Passover) holiday, Gotlib read a message in English on Radio Judaica, the Jewish radio: ‘’Please stay at home, don’t go to synagogue minyanim. Even if the Pesach seder is such important, do it only in the smallest possible family gathering.’’

Almost all kosher shops are open in the city and home deliveries are organized for those in need, says Regina Sluszny, president of the Forum of Jewish Organizations. She noted that there is food shortage so far.

Usually, for Passover, many Antwerp Orthodox Jews travel to their families either in Israel, the U.S. or the U.K. But this time, they are stuck at home in Antwerp.

Belgium is on lockdown over the coronavirus crisis since 18 March. The country’s National Security Council decided last Friday to extend the coronavirus containment measures by two weeks until 19 April, after France applied the same time frame only hours earlier.

If there is no decrease in the number of hospital admissions by 19 April, the lockdown will remain in force until 3 May.

The CSN, which brings together the Prime Minister, deputies, ministers, representatives of the federated entities, heads of the security services and scientists, was meant to evaluate the various emergency measures taken to fight against COVID-19, as well as their duration.

“It is far too early to say that the epidemic is under control. Our efforts have only just begun. If we decrease them, the consequences could be dramatic. This is why the measures taken will be extended until 19 April and may be extended until 3 May,” Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès declared.

Citizens are required to stay at home except for essential travel such as work, going to the doctor, or buying food.

More than 800 people have died in the country since the start of the virus  outbreak.

Share.

Leave A Reply