The Women on the other Corona Front Line

Volunteers prepare food for Kosher Mobile Meals. (courtesy)

Whilst the battle against the virus continues, the fight to feed the elderly is just beginning.

Every week in Johannesburg 60 volunteers meet to combat a crucial issue facing senior citizens of the South African Jewish community. Protecting the group has been top priority since the outbreak of the corona virus however these volunteers are not from the health care sector. Instead they are working on another front line, convening to pack and distribute food, for 130 elderly who are not able to shop and cook for themselves. They are part of the Union of Jewish Women’s, Kosher Mobile Meals project, that has been operating since the 1970’s and which has now been thrust onto the communal agenda due to the threat of the virus.

The declaration of a 21 day lock down brought mounting concerns that this vital nutritional life line would be cut off. Moving quickly Kosher Mobile Meals worked with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies to get their volunteers declared as an “essential service”. This gives them the freedom to move and operate in Johannesburg, keeping the supply lines open. This includes visits to places like Yoeville and Berea where a few Jewish residents still live amidst an area struggling with issues of urban decay.

The virus has brought other challenges to the work of the group. The social worker that normally visits recipients face to face, has had to connect via the phone. Masks and hand sanitiser have had to be issued to the teams and certain vulnerable volunteers have had to take a precautionary break from their activities. The project has also stepped up deliveries of non-perishables in addition to their normal food allocations.

The project faces an additional and unusual challenge. Members of the public often get Kosher Mobile Meals confused with the Meals on Wheels project, that is run by the local Methodist Church. This has resulted in many donations meant for the project going awry.

Despite the new challenges, Executive Director of the Union of Jewish Women, Cindy Kree is positive about the work that has been achieved. Kree commented that “Kosher Mobile Meals is proud to be seen as an essential service during this period of COVID-19. All Kosher Mobile Meals recipients will be able to eat Kosher and nutritious food during the lock down period, and Pesach.”

She was also full of praise for the people on that are helping to make sure that the work continues under the new stricter guidelines. “We thank our volunteers who are coming out and assisting with packing, and are obliging with the rules put out. Without them, and our incredibly generous community and donors, we would not be able to do this.”

Cindy did an interview about the work of the organisation at this time on community radio station on 101.9 ChaiFM on the New Blue Review:

The Kosher Mobile Meals project is fully funded and supported by the Union of Jewish Women.  If you would like more information on the project and how to make a donation you can see below in the links. https://www.payfast.co.za/donate/go/unionofjewishwomen or http://www.ujw.co.za/

About the Author
Benji Shulman is from Johannesburg, South Africa, he has a masters degree in Geography and has worked in a range of fields in the Jewish community including education, advocacy, environment and outreach. He loves radio and has a hosted numerous shows on 101.9 ChaiFm in the last decade.
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