Like many people, I am concerned about the various African nations afflicted with an outbreak of Ebola. I have deep sympathy for the people suffering and dying as well as for the surviving family members and the community as a whole. The unlikely possibility of Ebola spreading and infecting thousands in this country has crossed my mind, though I can’t say it keeps me up at night – yet.

The chances of contracting Ebola in Newton, MA are ridiculously miniscule.  We are much more susceptible to infections by any number of much more common viruses, from meningitis to the flu. Forbes says, “It’s also important to note that the panic about Ebola in the U.S. is driven more by xenophobia and fear of the unknown than by rational thought, and that a large outbreak here is still very unlikely.” It makes sense to just stay calm. Furthermore, the sensational and occasionally ridiculous headlines, the grandstanding, remonstrating, ignorant congressmen, the pathetic warnings of apocalypse – all of this creates a big dose of skepticism. I will not succumb to the panic woven into the 24 hour media blitz. And I certainly will not jump on the “who-can-we-blame” bandwagon.

But then we read the following: “You can now get Ebola only through direct contact with bodily fluids. But viruses like Ebola are notoriously sloppy in replicating, meaning the virus entering one person may be genetically different from the virus entering the next. If certain mutations occurred, it would mean that just breathing would put one at risk of contracting Ebola. Infections could spread quickly to every part of the globe, as the H1N1 influenza virus did in 2009, after its birth in Mexico. … [T]he risk is real, and until we consider it, the world will not be prepared to do what is necessary to end the epidemic.”

How worried are we supposed to be? What are we to believe? Who truly is knowledgeable about Ebola?

There is now an answer to these questions. We have an Ebola czar. Do we really need an Ebola czar? There are good arguments, pro and con, on this issue. Frankly, what could it hurt? It is obvious that nobody in this country on the medical front or the public health front seemed to quite know how to initially respond to this devastating virus. So at this point we need all the help that we can get.

The new Ebola Response Coordinator, is Ron Klain, a very bright and a very successful lawyer. This fact instantly calms me down. Why? Here’s the unvarnished truth. I confess: it’s because he is Jewish.

Obviously the Ebola Response Coordinator job is not out of the Talmud. The point is that a man with a Yiddische neshama, i.e., a good Jewish soul, is running that office. I have never met Ron Klain, though as soon as I saw his photo I realized that I do know him, or at least, his physiognomic type. I recognized him as a person I can trust. We stood together Sinai: I remember his face!

I know. This sounds a bit preposterous and maybe even a bit chauvinistic. Obviously I would have no qualms with any qualified person the President chose, regardless of faith or ethnicity. But I know where Mr. Klain comes from. I’d like to believe that his ethical sense of the value of life and the notion that all of us are created equally in God’s image is a part of his Jewish heritage. That Jewish heritage will help him make hard decisions with compassion and honesty. I’m glad he’s there for all of us.

Shabbat Shalom,


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