The corona crisis demands a lot of us all. But it has also strengthened solidarity and a sense of community. The SIG is standing by Jewish communities in this situation with advice and support.

The corona crisis has had a drastic impact on our whole society since the spring of 2020. This, of course, also applies to Switzerland’s Jewish communities. At a certain stage, community life largely grinded to a halt and most group activities had to be abandoned. This was a novel situation and gave rise to much anxiety.

Solidarity in the community

From the very start, the Jewish community in Switzerland demonstrated a great deal of solidarity and willingness to help. With the support of numerous volunteers, the individual communities reacted swiftly and put together a broad range of support measures. Shopping assistance was organised and telephone networks were set up for elderly people or those at risk. The communities’ social services in particular were quick to offer unbureaucratic help to those in need. Solutions regarding the supply of kosher or Pesah products, for examples, were elaborated almost immediately. New ways and methods adopted by the Jewish community after the onset of the pandemic include Shiurim over the phone, virtual religious instruction and the online streaming of Kabbalat Shabbat, Havdalah and other reflective or contemplative occasions.

Support by the SIG

Since the onset of the crisis, the SIG has mobilised its resources and advisory services to help people cope with the impact of the pandemic. It organised regular virtual exchange among the individual communities and provided advice and support. Community leaders are, after all, confronted with numerous questions. One of them is about the support that the Jewish communities can offer to society as a whole. On request, for example, several Jewish communities offered to provide the army with accommodation if required. The SIG for its part has advised the communities regarding the import and nationwide distribution of kosher and Pesah products, and actively helped in cases of supply bottlenecks. As a result, the supply of kosher food products has been ensured so far throughout the pandemic.

Easing and return to normality

Early on in the pandemic, the SIG began cooperating with the health authorities on relevant issues, such as ensuring safe forms of easing and normalisation for religious ceremonies. The two Jewish umbrella organisations, the SIG and the Platform of Liberal Jews in Switzerland, had already elaborated and presented a comprehensive protection concept for Jewish religious services. Subject to the observance of the security measures outlined in the concept, the Federal Council finally permitted Jewish religious services to be held again.

With the steadily increasing vaccination rate in Switzerland and the availability of COVID certificates, many other activities are slowly being resumed and returning to normal. Despite the fact that outstanding work has been done in this respect, the situation remains challenging for the communities. The SIG will continue to accompany and support them in the months to come.

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