ESRAmagazine

Chairman's Message 205

Who would have believed it? 

It is hard to believe how eerily predictive my chosen title was when I wrote the Chairman's Message for the February ESRAmagazine - "The Times They Are A-Changin'".

And, oh boy, how the times have changed in those few short months!

I may have heard about something called Coronavirus, but I couldn't have imagined the havoc it would wreak, nor that we would be spending our Seder, and the weeks following it, confined to our homes in something called 'lockdown'. And what on earth was 'Zoom'?

One thing is clear. We have moved into a changed new world. Although we cannot know what the immediate future will look like, we can respond now to those changes that have already taken place. That is what ESRA has done.

COVID-19 came into our lives like a bolt out of the blue, but ESRA moved quickly to adjust to the new reality with expanded welfare services and online activities. New tools and programs were immediately developed, and these are now being incorporated into our future planning. We are using technology to break down geographical barriers and enable a broader involvement in all our activities for ESRA members wherever they may be.

We are now firmly in the era of Zoom. Our members have widely embraced its use, helping them maintain contact with family, friends, and in short, the outside world. By using Zoom, ESRA has been able to provide rich and varied entertainment for members and friends throughout the country, and even internationally. The ESRA office staff, working also from home and online during the lockdown, is to be truly congratulated for offering us an array of excellent activity options week after week. These activities, during lockdown and up to the end of May, were offered free of charge to our national membership. Starting in June, in line with practices of many other national and international organizations, we have introduced a small charge for online activities to help cover our expenses.

ESRA's English Tutoring Program (ETP) was thrown into complete confusion when the schools closed. Happily some of our volunteer tutors managed to continue working with their students online and maintain contact. We are very excited that the Ministry of Education has requested our cooperation in developing a new online tutoring program, Chat Away, which will enable ESRA volunteers to continue their excellent work.

Our secondhand shops in Raanana and Kfar Saba, as well as the bookshops in Raanana, Modiin and Zichron, were closed for several weeks, but happily they reopened in May, enabling our dedicated volunteers to return to their activities in these projects and customers to enjoy their wares.

Most of ESRA's education and welfare projects have also been forced into dormancy, but a few bright spots have managed to shine through. In our Students Build a Community (SBC) projects, most student mentors kept in contact with their schoolchildren by means of WhatsApp and Zoom. This continuity during a time of chaotic change, was a comfort to the schoolchildren, their families and communities in Netanya and Akko where SBC projects operate.

Sadly COVID-19 caused the cessation of all local branch activity, and this continues to be the case at the time of writing. However, online meetings have been improvised among regular social groups such as Zumba, Bridge, Mahjong and knitting.

As you will see elsewhere in this issue of ESRAmagazine, Welfare Committee volunteers have worked throughout the crisis to provide as many grants as possible to families in financial distress. Our Annual Campaign this year targets this aim and we are grateful for the support received from members and donors. The Campaign is still ongoing as is the need, with increasingly more Israeli families finding themselves unemployed and experiencing financial crisis. In fact, our nation is in crisis, and ESRA stands ready to help. Please consider joining us in this cause. Donations can easily be made through the ESRA website.

It would be pointless to pretend that ESRA itself is exempt from stress. There will be a significant financial impact on ESRA, which means we must continue to embrace and react to changes, to be adaptable and flexible. We must stay alert to evolving situations and move quickly to make the very best we can of opportunities at our disposal.

We in ESRA are proud of what we have achieved, but there is much still to be done. Now more than ever, we need your support.

Wishing everyone good health, follow the rules and stay safe!

 

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Wednesday, 25 November 2020

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