A Jerusalem-based, international collaborative effort of professionals to offer sound, effective, urgent and tailor-made intervention packages to enhance vaccination coverage and community education in poor countries around the world has been established.
The Jerusalem Impact Vaccination Initiative (JIVI) is focused on faith-based Organizations (FBOs) and Faith-based Health Providers (FBHPs). Following the workshop held in Israel’s capital on November 11, it will work with these organizations on creating demand for the vaccine, community education and reducing hesitancy about vaccinating children, teens and adults against the deadly Coronavirus. = JIVI’s goal is to augment the collaboration between Faith and Public Health at all levels.
Impact Vaccination, the technical assistance arm of JIVI, is partnering with activists in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America to establish and manage high-volume vaccination centers for service delivery, capacity building, training and mobile units’ outreach.
Dr, Inon Schenker, an Israeli global public health specialist and the founding chief executive officer of the initiative said: “Tthe urgent need to find new directions, support and strategies to end the COVID-19 pandemic draws attention to the important role faith leaders can play in enhancing trust, supporting national efforts to equitably deploy vaccinations and mobilizing community-wide action and education for effective public health measures.”
Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and a co-leader of the initiative, highlighted the importance of the collaboration between science and religion and urged religious leaders “not only to lend their authority to medical and public health efforts to combat the pandemic, but also to combat misrepresentation and disinformation that undermines this process and threatens the wellbeing of society.”
Rabbi Prof. Avraham Steinberg, a veteran pediatric neurologist at Jerusalem’s of Shaare Zedek Medical Center and co-leader of the initiative added: “The human race has experienced many pandemics, and today we need to draw on theological questions, particularly what lessons we can learn from the pandemic we are now living through.”
Major support for the initiative came from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who convened a historic summit at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem after the symposium, welcoming the heads of the major religions in Israel. Also present were Israel’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and members of the JIVI steering committee.
During the event, the religious leaders proclaimed a “Joint Call of Religious Leaders Concerning Vaccination and Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic from Jerusalem, the holy city invoked in the prayers of hundreds of millions of believers around the world every day. We call on all believers to pray foR the complete cessation of the pandemic. Together with prayers to the Almighty, we call on everyone to receive vaccination as soon as possible… and to continue abiding by all the preventive measures.”
The religious leaders representing Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahai and Druse faiths added that they welcomed “any initiative for technical assistance, guidance, and professional and religious counseling for the implementation of our call for widespread, international, interfaith cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and for the success of mass vaccinations against COVID-19 such as the Jerusalem Impact Vaccination Initiative”.
Herzog thanked the religious leaders for the open roundtable conversation with him on their common responsibilities in supporting national efforts to fight COVID-19: “Interfaith cooperation is hugely powerful. I think that the fact that this fantastic call is coming out of the Holy Land truly sets an example and serves as a model.”
Joining President Herzog in Jerusalem and recognized on the Joint Call are the the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef; the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court Rabbi David Lau; the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III; the Latin Patriarch, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa; the president of the Shari’a Court of Appeals, Sheikh Abed Elhakim Samara; Druse community leader, Sheikh Mouafaq Tarrif; the head of the Greek Catholic Church, Haifa and the Galilee, Archbishop Dr. Yosef Mata; the head of Muslim department in the Interior Ministry, Sheikh Ziad Abu Moch; the inspector of Imams in the Interior Ministry, Sheikh Jamal Al Obra; and the secretary-general of the Baháʼí Movement in Israel, Dr. David Rutstein.
In a workshop held prior to the summit under the auspices of the president and co-sponsored by AJC; Shaare Zedek Medical Center; the Falk Schlesinger Institute; and Impact Vaccination, there was universal consensus on the need to strengthen the cooperation between public health professionals and faith leaders in enhancing vaccination and mitigating hesitancy. Entitled “Responsibilities of Faith Leaders in Supporting National Efforts Fighting Pandemics and the Tools at Their Disposal,” participants discussed barriers and solutions for addressing COVID-19 challenges in faith communities. Several speakers pushed for pro-active efforts to support countries in need In Africa and neighboring Israel.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon added his and the Jerusalem municipality’s support for the initiative. In his greeting he said: “Jerusalem is a symbol for so many believers all around the world. It is only fitting that this initiative brings us all together. The bridges you build today will stay strong even after COVID-19 becomes a distant memory.”
A recording of the workshop can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24wMxS93TLs.