GoBidud: A kindness revolution helping those in quarantine

Services offered include running errands, taking out people’s garbage, doing their shopping, delivering care packages to children.

MEIR ROTH: Opportunity to share and care (photo credit: Courtesy)
MEIR ROTH: Opportunity to share and care
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It all started with a concern, expressed by Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits of Jerusalem’s Sanhedria Murhevet neighborhood, that community members entering bidud (quarantine) will need help to enable them to stay indoors for 14 days.
Without this help, households in bidud might have no way to manage many tasks of daily living, such as getting food, getting rid of their trash and picking up mail. Berkovits encouraged his community to arrange for this kind of assistance for neighbors in need.
His call was answered by community member Rabbi Yosef Y. Ettlinger. Inspired by his parents’ tradition of community service in their hometown neighborhood of Washington Heights, New York, Ettlinger commented, “My father told me, ‘When something has to get done, you do it. You do what you can. Leave the rest to the Almighty.’”
Comfortable working with computers, Ettlinger took on the role of coordinating between volunteers and people in need. Initially, he created a simple Google Doc. “Within five days, we had 10-15 families in the community that needed help and double the amount of volunteers,” he noted.
Inspired both by Berkovits’s sensitivity to the needs of his community and by the enthusiastic response from prospective volunteers, Ettlinger’s vision quickly expanded.
“If we’re already doing this,” he thought, “let me create a platform where we can share pertinent information with other communities.”
Enter 20-year-old Meir Roth, whose father, Rabbi Dan Roth, is a student of Berkovits. The younger Roth studies at Machon Lev and is currently on a break from classes. He volunteered his time to build a website for Ettlinger’s project, now called GoBidud.com.
In his free time, Roth also built CoronaIsrael.live, which is “a live updating dashboard that shows, in a clear and organized way, the number of local and global coronavirus cases with active, recoveries and death rate statistics.” He is currently working on an English version that will include the number of cases in each city in Israel.
“I created CoronaIsrael.live with the goal of giving people a clear view of the current COVID-19 pandemic situation and hopefully making people realize how serious it is and how we have to all work together to stop the spread,” he explained.
Roth built the GoBidud.com site in WordPress, which allows Ettlinger to edit and update the text on his own. This turned out to be crucial, because the GoBidud.com project is growing very quickly.
RABBI YOSEF Y. ETTLINGER was inspired by his parents’ tradition of community service. (Credit: Faigie Ettlinger)RABBI YOSEF Y. ETTLINGER was inspired by his parents’ tradition of community service. (Credit: Faigie Ettlinger)
What started out on June 5 as a local effort in Sanhedria Murhevet has already spread to the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Arzei Habira, Givat Hamivtar, Ma’alot Dafna, Ramat Eshkol, Ramot, Romema, the rest of Sanhedria, and to Givat Ze’ev and Betar.
In the short time he’s been working on GoBidud.com, Ettlinger has discovered something he thinks is “fascinating. We’re facilitating needs like trash and shopping, but we’re giving people the opportunity to share and care.
“COVID-19 brought the inability to share. That’s destroying a basic element of humanity. God created society with the ability to share. It’s emotionally crushing to be prevented from sharing. When you do hessed (kind acts), you become a conduit for God’s hessed.
“We’re living in a time where there are destructive forces in the world. We’re breathing it in. The antibody for this is kindness, because when you create kindness, it’s infectious, it’s contagious. The excitement that I’ve discovered comes from people who have a portal to share their heart with other people.”
GoBidud.com’s secret sauce is the team of community coordinators. These are individuals who live in the community being served and who, in many cases, know the recipients and the volunteers personally. Community coordinators, sensitive to the needs of their own communities, are able to recruit volunteers through local WhatsApp and Facebook groups.
For now, GoBidud.com is in English, but Ettlinger would love to find someone to translate the site into Hebrew and other languages. In fact, he hopes the project will eventually spread worldwide.
Services offered include running errands, taking out people’s garbage, doing their shopping, delivering care packages to children, checking in by phone with people in bidud, helping with bureaucratic needs, helping people find appropriate places to quarantine, delivering important packages and praying for the health of others.
Community-specific services are added as the needs come up. For example, in Sanhedria Murhevet, the Refuah Bekarov service helps people in bidud or with limited mobility get the medications they need.
Bidud Buddies is a GoBidud.com initiative created by Shoshana Malka Lamm. She explained, “We help out families in partial or full bidud, with an extra emphasis on providing entertainment and recreation for elementary school-aged kids. Our focus is on making it easier for [families] in partial bidud, with one bored kid home for two weeks while his or her other siblings all get to play outside.
“We have an active lending library of toys, books, games and more. We also arrange a small care package of crafts, candy and snacks to send to families with kids in bidud. We quarantine and disinfect items in between uses.
“Additionally, we have a Bidud B’yachad daily challenge for kids to follow instructions to carry out an activity or project. They then take a picture of their work and submit it to us to have it featured and to be entered into a raffle.”
Lamm noted that “other projects in the works include a gratitude project and a parsha project. We are open to suggestions for what families feel would help their kids most while they are in bidud.
“We want families to feel that they are not experiencing bidud alone. For this reason our tagline is ‘Bidud Buddies: Helping weather the bidud together, apart.’”
Bidud Buddies currently operates in Givat Hamivtar, Ma’alot Dafna, Ramat Eshkol Sanhedria and Sanhedria Murhevet.
GoBidud.com offers an additional service to help women deal with questions that arise while they are in bidud related to their use of the mikveh. In addition, ovulation tests and pregnancy tests can be delivered discreetly for those in need.
As GoBidud.com grows, plans are already being developed to offer psychological support and a dog-walking service.
“Every day, were broadening in scope and reach,” Ettlinger commented. “We encourage people to use their ingenuity to get on board. It starts with helping people stay in bidud, but that’s only the beginning. The database is built in a way that we can service every community in what they need, if we have volunteers. We have the technical platform to support it.”
GoBidud.com established six funds to help pay for social services. They include funds for rent relief, new mothers, food, children’s care packages, students and the administrative costs of running GoBidud.com.
Ettlinger has big plans for spreading his version of neighborly kindness, but, he says, “I know my limitations. I’m not trying to conquer the world. That’s why we list other organizations that offer assistance.”
GoBidud.com has volunteers of all ages and abilities.
“Everyone gives in their own way. We’re creating a platform for people to care and share. With technology, we’re able to bond together,” he noted.
They face an interesting challenge at this stage in their development.
“We have more trouble getting people to request help than volunteers. We have a disproportionate group of volunteers,” Ettlinger explained.
What started with responding to COVID-19 won’t end there. “It’s a necessity that has to continue. I don’t know the future, but this is the dawn of a new beginning. We are countering COVID with KBU antibodies – kindness, brotherhood and unity,” he concluded.
To personalize GoBidud.com for your community, email contact@gobidud.com.