Czech Jewish foundation helps New York peers

New York, photo: ČTK / AP Photo / Mark Lennihan

The Prague-based foundation Hatikva Josefov has started to ship medical equipment, including face masks and face shields, to the Jewish community in New York, one of the U.S. cities most heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The man behind the initiative is Aaron Günsberger, owner of a well-known Prague Kosher restaurant. He says he got the idea while organizing help for the Jewish community in the Czech Republic.

New York,  photo: ČTK / AP Photo / Mark Lennihan

"When I saw the videos and pictures from New York, I realized that the people were in the same situation as we were here some time before. They had enough financial resources and food, but they were lacking protective medical equipment.

"So I decided to help them by providing things that we have already developed, that is face protection gear and hand sanitizers. However, the DHL company, which has helped us a lot by letting us send the delivery for free, didn’t allow us to ship the disinfectant, as it is highly flammable. But the rest of the delivery was approved and DHL received it from us the day before Shabbat."

Which companies did you approach to take part in the project?

“I have an agency which issues kosher certificates to food companies in the Czech Republic. My idea was that these companies, which have been benefiting from the Jewish communities in the United States for many years, might be willing to give them back some help, because they need it right now.

Illustrative photo: Whispyhistory,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0
“One of the companies I approached was the well-known liquor producer Rudolf Jelínek. I also approached the company Tonak, which is not producing any food products, but its branch Hückel is the historically oldest producer of beaver hats, worn by all Hassidic communities in the United States and Israel.

“I also approached my friends, including the company Dekonta, and the Czech-Israeli board of commerce, who asked their members for help. There were some private donors and there were also people with no connection to the Jewish community at all, who just liked the idea and wanted to help."

The first batch has already left the Czech Republic. What items did it contain?

"It contained nano-masks, provided by the company Dekonta, as well as nano-filters produced by my own company. We also shipped 600 face masks made by the company Tonak and some FFP2 respirators and 200 face shields produced by the Průša company.

“I have already delivered these shields to some local hospitals in the Czech Republic and to the members of the Jewish community, and now we got another 200 pieces which we shipped to the United States.”

Photo: Roman Harak,  Flickr,  CC BY-SA 2.0
Given all the restrictions related to Covid-19, how difficult was it to organize the shipment itself?

“To be honest, to collect the money and the goods was not such a big problem. The only problem was the paperwork, because it was my first time organizing such a thing. But the DHL company as well as the foreign ministry were really helpful. So I think the next shipment will be much easier, because we already have the know-how.”