As Israel continues to deal with surging coronavirus cases brought about by the Omicron variant, New York City's Jewish community is facing its own outbreak and coalesces together to provide help to its members in need.
"A very, very large percentage of the people I know have caught it, but just like everywhere else, most of them are only experiencing mild symptoms," Amir Richulsky, a member of the Israeli-American Council residing in New Jersey, told the Ynet studio in Hebrew.
"Thank God, I don't know anyone close to me whose condition had deteriorated. People describe the same symptoms we hear about from everyone — runny nose, sore throat and so on."
The New York State Health Department on Friday reported a record-high 44,431 new coronavirus cases statewide. It also reported over 4,700 hospitalizations.
According to Richulsky, the community is bracing for the worst — still carrying the scars of a devastating outbreak in the early days of the pandemic — and is preparing to hand out aid as it did during the city's first wave.
"We are ready and waiting for the moment when we will be needed. There is food distribution for those in need, there are Holocaust survivors who get packages delivered to them every Shabbat, things we saw in the first wave," he said.
"Once the need arises, the Jewish community immediately knows how to mobilize and help."
Richulsky said he believed the community has reached a certain level of herd immunity. He further said that past experience has shown it is better to leave schools and businesses open as much as possible while promoting mass testing and encouraging people to get vaccinated.
The ex-Israeli stated that vaccines remain a wedge issue across the state as the unvaccinated often find themselves locked out of public accommodations.
"The moment you are inoculated, you live your life — you can go see a show on Broadway, NBA games, a movie and do pretty much everything you like," he said.
"If you are unvaccinated and can't present proof of vaccination where you want to go, that's where the problem starts. He told me that there you don't see people 'like you and me', i.e. those who are vaccinated.
I was talking over the weekend with a friend at the synagogue who is a doctor at a hospital treating COVID. He's in the COVID ward here and he says, 'I do not see people like me and you.' That's how he put it. I mean, he doesn't see vaccinated people there, those who have been vaccinated with a booster. He mostly sees unvaccinated people who are starting to fill the wards or people with weak immune systems."