Frida Wattenberg led an extraordinary life before her death in Paris on April 3 at 95. She as a teenager when Nazis invaded her homeland of France, and not even 20 when she began the dangerous work of smuggling Jewish children out of France into Switzerland. After World War II, she served as a caseworker for a Jewish group that helped war orphans, and helped Jews immigrate to pre-state Israel.
As of this writing, COVID-19 has attacked close to 2 million people around the world, and killed more than 115,000, including almost 23,000 in the U.S. — with a disproportionate impact on heavily populated urban areas, including densely populated Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey.
Among the lives lost was Adam Schlesinger, a Grammy-winning songwriter from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who died from coronavirus complications at 52. He was one of the songwriters for the band Fountains of Wayne, best known for their song “Stacy’s Mom.”
In the Orthodox world, the community mourned the loss of Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, also known as the Novominsker Rebbe, who succumbed to the virus on April 7 at 89. Rabbi Perlow, who lived in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, led Agudath Israel of America and its influential rabbinic leadership council called Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.
And Irving Carter, a British philanthropist who died April 3 at 76, was a prominent supporter of Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service, and a lead funder of the Sylvia Carter Medical Center for children with disabilities in Gedera.
Closer to home, Maurice Berger, who died last month at 63, was a research professor and chief curator for the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who also worked with the Jewish Museum in New York City.
There are, to our deep pain, many more members of our Jewish world who have lost their lives as the dreaded coronavirus has attacked and impacted every aspect of our existence, in cities around the country and in countries around the world. We each know someone who has tested positive for the virus; most of us know someone who has required hospitalization; and too many of us know someone who has died. The losses are overwhelming.
Unfortunately, those losses are projected to increase before the curve flattens and infections diminish. The elderly and infirm are at particular risk. We need to be vigilant, and to continue to observe medical and governmental directives designed to mitigate the spread of the virus and to protect the lives around us.
We deeply mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters, and grieve with the families and communities that have lost relatives and friends, leaders and everyday people. May each of their memories be for a blessing, as we pray for a quick end to the pandemic nightmare.