VICTORIAN Jewry could take at least two years to recover from the coronavirus pandemic – that’s the projection made by the Victorian Jewish Community COVID-19 Taskforce in its strategy to guide the community through its most daunting challenge in decades.
Speaking to The AJN, Community Security Group (CSG) CEO Justin Kagan, who helped establish the body along with other communal institutions, identified an 18-36-month period in which Jewish life will recover in terms of health and wellbeing, safety and security, and financially.
“We’ll need a lot of partners in the community. We won’t be able to drive absolutely everything,” he said. “But we certainly will help oversee things and make sure the community’s going in the right direction.
“For the first time in a while, the Jewish community in Victoria have really galvanised themselves and pulled in the same direction, which is great,” he said.
The Taskforce is liaising with Victoria Police and the Department of Health and Human Services to emphasise cultural sensitivities in the Jewish community, said Kagan.
“Victoria Police have been brilliant in dealing with these issues. They are incredibly sensitive to our community … making sure there’s no uptick in antisemitic activity due to the activities of some of the elements of our community. We’ve been in regular contact with [police] and helping to guide them.”
Asked about how police are handling the flouting of some coronavirus curbs by an ultra-Orthodox group in St Kilda East, Kagan reported police “have been constantly working with the Satmar community … I know [police] have been talking to their rabbis on almost a daily basis”.
The Taskforce now sits as the Jewish liaison on the pandemic committees of three local councils – Glen Eira, Port Phillip and Stonnington – and Kagan said the councils “are very focused on [building] the resilience of our community” and that has emerged from weekly meetings between the Taskforce and the councils.
At the same time the response team is continuing to closely monitor antisemitic activity, he said.
Within the Jewish community leadership, the Taskforce has become a vital resource, accessible around the clock to answer questions. It works closely with the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and Progressive Judaism Victoria, expanding on close bonds that developed during the shule closures, said Kagan.
And Kagan noted support is available for CSG Taskforce volunteers. “We take the mental health and wellbeing of our volunteers incredibly seriously.”