While foreigners are doing their best to stay out of the Chinese city of Wuhan, struck by a novel coronavirus this month, or leave if they were there in the first place — the US Consulate is evacuating its personnel and some private citizens as well — the descendant of a renowned Chassidic Rebbe is making sure kosher supervision in the city is not compromised as a result.
Rabbi David Moskowitz, founder of SKS Kosher Services, is known outside of China as the Shotzer Rebbe of Ashdod, a descendant of Rabbi Shulem Moskovitz, zt’l, a direct descendant of the Ba’al Shem Tov known as the Shotzer Rebbe zt’l and author of Torah commentaries entitled the “Daas Sholom.” When he passed away in London in 1958, (22 Teves 5718), Rabbi Shulem left a promise in his will stating that anyone could come to his grave and ask for his help, as long as they undertake to better themselves in at least one way in exchange.
His successor as Rebbe to the Chassidic court, Rabbi David Moskowitz, took upon himself the responsibility of creating SKS Kosher Services, an agency to service the various kosher supervision organizations who send representatives to the mammoth Asian nation.
The rabbi, who spoke Sunday night exclusively in an internet interview with JewishPress.com, has also been traveling back and forth to China for nearly three decades. At least one of the factories with which he works is located in Wuhan.
“In sharp contrast from the SARS virus outbreak in 2002, the Chinese government is doing everything medically possible to stop the virus from spreading,” he said. An intercity travel ban has been just the start.
The rabbi’s office manager, who is Chinese, replied when asked how she and the family are doing, “We are all ok. Everyone says happy new year through wechat. We storage (sic) food and salt for one month. Students will postpone school time,” she wrote.
The Chinese New Year officially ends on February 3; it has meant the kosher food processing plants have been shut down for nearly a month – a boon in this situation. There is a total lockdown in place throughout Hubei Province, the rabbi said; 50 million people are not moving around. No air travel, no buses and railways are shut down as are any other form of intercity transportation.
Rabbi Moskowitz said it hasn’t been much of a holiday. “All public venues for the holiday have been shut down, [including] Disneyland in Shanghai, and even Beijing’s Forbidden City. All travel for people not living in the capital, Beijing, has been restricted.
“Even museums in Shanghai, which is a two-hour flight from Wuhan, have been closed. A Chinese citizen from any other city is forbidden from entering. Lockdown here means officials are trying to keep people from comingling in order to keep the virus from spreading.
“As a Jewish grandmother would say after prescribing chicken soup for a fever: ‘Without the soup you would have been much worse!’” the rabbi said.
Only in a country like China can this be done; imagine trying to order even half a million Israelis to stay off the highways for a month, no buses and no trains. No flights. Over a virus. Really??
Zeng Guang, a member of China’s National Health Commission senior-level expert panel, spoke this weekend with the China Inspection and Quarantine Times newspaper, which is affiliated with the country’s General Administration of Customs, the China Daily news outlet reported.
The city of Wuhan, Zeng said, has involved a wide range of considerations beyond the public health sector, including social issues, economic concerns, mental health issues and the traditional customs of family reunion during the nation’s Spring Festival.
“It’s not an easy decision to make,” he said. However, it was one that was “understandable and acceptable.” Nor was it fair to say the lockdown was “belated,” he contended, “because the decision will effectively step up the fight against the virus.”
Problem Understanding How Virus Spreads
The biggest difficulty in controlling the illness, he said, is the “limited understanding of the epidemiology of the novel coronavirus, largely due to the constant mutation of the virus…
“We have accelerated research in this aspect, and if the novel coronavirus is transmissible during the incubation period, the risk of the disease spread will be heightened and our disease prevention and control work will be adjusted,” he said.
In the meantime, the Chinese New Year is to officially end on February 3, but the Lunar New Year holiday has just been extended by the government in order to keep the public at home a bit longer, The Associated Press reported.
Wuhan Lockdown Expands to 17 Other Cities
Chinese travel agencies have canceled group tours nationwide and abroad; Hong Kong has announced it has barred the entry of visitors from Wuhan as well.
The lockdown that began with Hubei Province and Wuhan has expanded to a total of 17 cities, with more than 50 million citizens.
What all this means is that the staff which was to return to kosher production facilities in Wuhan and elsewhere around China on February 3, may now return later as well. “Factories were to get back to work a week later,” Rabbi David Moskowitz said.
Now that schedule is uncertain as well.