Published On: Mon, Sep 28th, 2020

We’re cheering them now, and then what?

By Tsipi Inberg Ben-Haim

I feel as if I am here again in the place I was 31 years ago.

Only now the subject is a bit different. Then, I realized that writing on the subject of Public Art and artists,

while it was raising awareness of the impact on community/neighborhood,

wasn’t enough for me anymore I needed to do something about it so I created CITYarts.

A not for profit organization that brings together youth and professional artists to create

Murals and Mosaic with their communities in their neighborhood or schools.

To date, our  Youth in collaboration with artists transformed their neighborhoods

with over 320 projects that impacted their lives forever.

Today, as we are going through these surreal painful times with the global pandemic

we are realizing that our essential workers are the backbone that is holding our society together

not only in the United States but in every country on this globe.

All that while we are sitting safely at home they are taking the risk of cooking our meals, delivering it to our doorstep, cleaning the buses, subways, parks, and the streets too.

Answering a call for help whether it’s a fire, riots on the block, or an unconscious person just passed out on the street. They’re serving us at the food stores pharmacies, or being nurses doctors, teachers, and educators.  Risking their lives every day as they come face to face with this terrible disease and infected people who need them in a big way on an hourly basis.

They became the people that care for us more than our closest family members.

So now the Bravo nights, every evening at 7 pm when we applaud them,

are almost over and I’m asking myself; what are we really going to do to show our appreciation?

Bravo, nights. Cheering them up/ Photos credit: Zigi Ben-Haim

I watch the news and see that the stock market is almost back to what it was before the crisis in March.

But at the same time, they are talking about millions being unemployed and for our essential workers, one job isn’t enough.

Most probably very soon, as businesses starting to reopen,

people will get busy again with their daily lives and forget that we need to improve the lives

who were there for us in the most crucial times of our lives.

This is not right. This must change!

So here I go again, we have to act -not just say it and make happy noise, but actually do something about it.

Therefore I asked my friends, and the essential workers themselves, from all walks of life,

to write 70-90 words describing just ONE thing or a few related subjects,

that they feel passionate about, and how to go about it.

Ideas of what should and could be done to improve the lives of our Essential workers going forward. 

I can see it as analogical to Humans and Nature, being ONE, we’re dependent on each other…

This pandemic highlighted to us something we were talking about before but didn’t see the importance of the essential workers to the rest of society.

We understood that it’s important to help improve their lives because it’s only fair to do so…

Now we realized it’s not only fair to them it’s essential to make the changes for the entire society to be safe because we’re DEPENDENT on each other…

Here’re some good ideas to help our Essential Workers…

Dr. Joan Culpepper-Morgan, MD
Chief of Gastroenterology
Harlem Hospital Center New York City

After a plentiful supply of PPE (personal protective equipment), especially a daily change of N95 masks, essential workers need mandatory time off. Many did not really take time to grieve and process all they had been through. Although we are trained to deal with death and dying, the magnitude of the number of deaths combined with the isolation of our patients and ourselves was especially heartbreaking and stressful.  Some of us were infected and survived. Some of us did not. The experience was surreal.  We need mandatory self-care.

One of the doctors in Mount Sinai Hospital NYC, who wants to keep anonymity said: 

Let’s continue to be kind to each other in unexpected ways. I work in a busy NYC hospital. Every morning, just before shift change, nurses, doctors, medical students, techs, medical support staff, etc gather in line at the hospital coffee shop, to grab a bite or to caffeinate before the start of another day. One morning, back in April, a colleague ahead of me in line unexpectedly bought my cup of coffee. Just because. For no particular reason.

Our hospital’s COVID numbers were at its highest at that time and everyone coming into work carried the extra weight of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and exhaustion. I was quite moved by the gesture. It was a small act of unnecessary kindness, but it had a big impact, the most important of which was the desire to pay it forward and find a way to spark the same feeling in someone else.

Since then, when I can, I try to find a way to do something completely unnecessary and kind for a stranger or acquaintance. It makes me feel good, it makes them feel good and my hope is it inspires them, as it did me, to do the same for someone else. Right now, in this moment, it feels important to know that communities have the capacity to take care of one another, without being asked and with no better reason to do so than ‘just because.’

photo credit: Marta Kusmier

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett-Ronald 

Ronald S. Lauder Chief Curator, Core Exhibition, 

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Thanks to essential workers, my husband (84 years old) and I (78 years old) are able to stay home and have been in lockdown for almost six months. Without the mail carrier, those who deliver for FedEx and UPS, the shoppers who fill and deliver orders for food, the team at Misfit Marketplace that packs our produce box, those who are working to get our absentee ballots to us and ensure our elections are fair, and so many others behind the scenes, we could not stay home and well and get our mail, packages, prescriptions, and ballots – and be able to vote. We are deeply grateful for their service. The best we can do for now is to tip generously and to advocate for their welfare – to petition for support for the United States Postal Service, for free and fair elections, for hazard pay, and for proper protective equipment – and to express our appreciation to them in any way we can.

Photo credit: Grace Rosselli

Joyce Kozloff

Artist

To start, we need more equality in income. There should be a $15 minimum wage in this country, and in states where the cost of living is higher like New York, it should be $20. We need affordable health care for all, comparable to other industrialized countries. Free public education on all levels, from pre-school through college. And housing which is racially integrated, safe, and affordable.

Prof. Emmanuel Katan
Author
“More than anyone, essential workers – people whose work protects, feeds, nurtures and heals our communities – contribute to the common good. Recognizing the dignity of their work starts at school. A modest proposal would be to introduce them to schoolchildren so that they recognize, at an early age, the value of working for the good of the community.”
Roy Bahat
Head of Bloomberg Beta
 
Some people believe a universal basic income would threaten innovation — why work hard to bring new things to life if my rewards will be taxed away to pay for an income for others?

A basic income program, if we can afford to offer it at a livable level, might have the opposite effect. Universal basic income might be the most meaningful way we could subsidize the earliest stages of innovation. It could multiply, by many factors, the amount of time people can spend creating.

Barbara Kopple

Film director won two Academy Awards,

My son walks 25 blocks daily to get to Mount Sinai St Luke’s and 25 blocks home risking his life to provide essential psychiatric services.  His hours are long and days off infrequent.  One night early during the COVID crisis, he heard banging outside his home and asked his husband Josh “What’s all that noise?”  Josh responded, “It’s for you!”  He was so touched he couldn’t stop smiling.  I wonder:  when all this is over, what will be available to him for the kind of trauma or PTSD he might carry from this tough experience?  Will real gratitude and love and support be short-lived? I hope not.

Dr. Adrian Sondheimer MD 
Early April 2020 I was hospitalized with COVID-19. 6 days later intubated and placed on a ventilator. 3 ½ days later de-intubated, removed from the ventilator – and survived. Hospital discharge 1-month post-admission, debilitated but alive.

I received care daily from physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, occupational and physical therapists, aides, lab-EKG-radiology technicians, transporters, and cleaning personnel. That I was a severe potential infectious agent deterred none of the personnel. I am in their debt for the care they provided, at constant risk to their lives. Multiply that by the care provided to hundreds of fellow COVID patients.

These personnel were and are truly heroic.
Glenn Barrett 
Musician
I do consider myself an essential worker. I see music as medicine.
I bring music to the people on the streets. My violin wakes them up, they raise their head, smile, cheer…
Always nice to feel appreciated in every way they can.

Firefighters, Policeman and Ambulance staff

All arrived quickly as they received a call about a man laying on the street unconscious.

“we’re all working together to save lives,” said the one woman firefighter. “all we ask of everyone

is to clear the way for us when they see and hear us as we’re responding to an emergency”

Susanne Lingemann 

Producer at ZDF, German Public TV

Teachers need more respect and better pay.

When our schools closed, teachers had only days to reinvent the way they
instruct our children. They had to speed-learn technology, were challenged to find ways not only to engage their students but also help them cope with the trauma of being under lockdown, missing friends, and sometimes help them grieve the loss of loved ones.

Teachers need to address inequality, social justice, and the pain and
confusion our kids experience and feel today.

I was watching a group of charter school teachers in Harlem this spring and my appreciation for our teachers has grown tremendously. Our kids deserve more counselors and teachers need better pay for the long hours they put in.

 

Winston 

UPS delivery guy

“Now that so many people work from home, there’re so many more deliveries, so we’re working around the clock.

We ask that people write clearly all the information needed including floor number and apartment number.

Also, be home to receive the package or make sure someone can accept it. Otherwise, we need to make several trips

with your heavy packages. Be there for us so we can be there for you. And give a kiss to Zigi from me”

Vered Leib with the author Tsipi Inberg Ben-Haim and policemen

Vered Leib 

Art critic and Author

I have been thinking about what we all can do for the Essential Workers to improve their lives?

I suggest kindness and courtesy. Many essential workers tell me that people are rude to them. Polls show Americans are more depressed and anxious than ever before.  Depending on your personality, depression, and anxiety can lead to unusual behavior: like raising your voice to the grocery person packing your shopping, or the pharmacy clerk who does not know where a product is located. These days’ tempers are flaring because we, as a nation, are on edge. That is why I suggest that the best gift we can give to the essential workers (and to ourselves) is kindness and if that fails us, simple good manners will do. Realize that these times call for all of us to pause and think about the attitude we are projecting to others. An angry remark or gesture hurts people. A smile and a warm “ how are you?” or “thank you” can make their day.

Frederick Doner

Doner Studio

Nurses and doctors treating Covid-19 are front-line infantrywomen and men, many of whom describe their work at the height of the crisis in their hospitals as a “fighting in a war zone.” They should be given more affordable, if not free, and more readily available physical and mental health services, time off, compensation, and other accommodations as if they were…because they are…our war heroes. (Our war heroes’ treatment could be improved as well. Let’s improve care for both as a permanent thank you for their invaluable service.)

Lance

SoHo sanitation worker

“People are usually appreciative and polite here in SoHo. I’m grateful that I have a job during this pandemic.

Most important is to have good health insurance for my family and myself”

Cris Gianakos

Sculptor

Our idea is first of all to respect and acknowledge them and make them feel they have contributed something important to our lives, our culture and society as a whole. For instance, we always greet workers at the Post Office, the supermarket, postal delivery people, sanitation workers, etc, and have a conversation with them, treating them like human beings, not just workers. Their medical needs and paid sick leave should all be taken care of.

Jere Van Dyk

Journalist-Writer

The most important thing is, was, and always will be respected. To treat them with respect. They are not servants, but our protectors, like soldiers, and firemen, who we don’t think about, until we need them, and then we are totally dependent upon them. They, as such, should be rewarded more for their service.

This requires a cultural shift in thinking. Like teachers, they should be paid more. They should be, if they are foreign-born, given special visas.

Companies should give them discounts as they give me, a veteran, a discount, for, say, groceries, or mortgages, and for entry to museums. They should carry a card, like a credit card, that identifies them, and even gives them discounts and special seating on busses and subways.

Citizens can be made aware of this through ads on radio and television, and political and social, and cultural leaders must be the ones to tell us what we, as a society, are doing for them. Society must be taught that they are our saviors, not our servants. Never forget this.

Michael Lerner

Retired

Unfortunately, most essential workers are woefully underpaid.

We need to provide free childcare by trained and vetted professionals, for the children of essential workers and their peer group – and additionally, provide safe supervised venues and after school activities for older children.

This would lift both a financial and psychological burden from many working-class people, and allow them to do their jobs with the same peace of mind enjoyed by the more affluent members of society. It would also provide an investment in the well-being of our youth, and thus in the future of our country.

Donna Butcher-Thorpe

ABC TV, New York City

I think the government should supply all employers with essential workers a liaison with whom to communicate their pandemic response needs. Just as FEMA comes in and helps with disasters, there should be regional pandemic response teams at the ready to come in and disinfect or recommend safety measures that they can also help implement.

Many of these essential workers are also stressed because there is not enough staffing. Particularly in the specialized nursing fields, like oncology. Maybe providing backup nurses from the military or national guard to step in so the essential nurses don’t feel overwhelmed or pressured to risk their lives because of staffing shortages.

Once this pandemic is under control, any lessons learned should be communicated to essential staff as standard onboarding and operating procedures.  I believe some employers provided hazard pay, but I think it should be a federally mandated hazard pay or some type of tax relief essential workers can take advantage of for helping the country stay afloat during these times.

Bharat Didwania

Financial advisor

  1. Usually, college students drop and rarely save. Even if you increase their income, they will spend it.
    Whenever a financial emergency comes they are back to square one. Ideally, instead of an increase
    in pay, we should offer them an account where the employer can deposit the increase. Money
    that they cannot withdraw unless an emergency. This is back up savings for them.
  2. Direct assistance to their children. For e.g any benefits of food clothing books not covered by
    govt can be subsidized.
  3. Free help for financial literacy. They save less and poorly invest. Volunteers who can help with
    tax preparation, investment.
  4. Volunteers can educate them about all govt programs available. Not used by these workers to the
    fullest.
    5. They pay on credit card interest rates and fees to the banks for returned checks. Educate them
    on options that can help them pay unnecessary fees. For eg, they can have overdraft protection
    with their banks.

Shulamith Bahat

CEO, Beit Hatfutsot of America

We awe our well being, safety, and lives to the essential workers in many areas, health, education, security, transportation, and more.

Essential workers are dedicated to us, we should show our respect for their dedication. Cheering them from a distance was elevating and boosted their morale and ours, but that should be demonstrated in decent salaries.  The minimum wage should be increased. It is important that we recognize that dignity is tied to the ability of working people to provide for their families.

I hope we all agree by now that it’s not enough to praise them, we have to reward them!

Now, this is just the beginning of the kicking off the change. A call to action!

Please, send it forward, ask your political representatives, friends, family, colleagues, etc to

contribute their thoughts and do something for our ESSENTIAL WORKERS.

As we welcome the Jewish New Year, this is a good place to start…

SHANA TOVA ! to us all

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