One Square and COVID

One Square and COVID

How a MJCCA mission to Cuba recalled when the public had to pay for a small piece of a precious commodity hoarded during today’s pandemic.

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

In Cuba in 2002, public restrooms charged for a square of toilet paper.
In Cuba in 2002, public restrooms charged for a square of toilet paper.

In 2002, the social action committee of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta was formed. Our mission: to help fill the needs of Jewish communities who require assistance; and complete mitzvot where there is a need in our own community.

The social action committee recruited hundreds of volunteers for a myriad of opportunities toward fulfilling our mitzvot goals. All our projects required dedication and commitment to doing our part to help repair the world, one mitzvah at a time.

One of the more significant endeavors was our humanitarian missions to Jewish Cuba, led by the most wonderful volunteer, who was born in Cuba. Miriam Saul’s vision of bringing aid to Jewish Cuba and the story of her arrival in the United States was my inspiration, and the inspiration for our volunteers, all of whom donated and schlepped millions of dollars in aid to the Jewish people of Cuba.
Some of the aid requested included Judaic articles such as kippot, mezuzot, prayer books, seder plates, Chanukiot, siddurim to help celebrate Jewish holidays, Shabbat candles and candlesticks, coloring books, and so much more. We were able to get over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol or cough medicine, and many others, donated.

The president of the Cuban community was one of the few at that time who had internet availability. She would give us a list of the most critically needed items; our volunteers worked diligently to fill these requests.

Shaindle Schmuckler

The process was grueling, between the paperwork, applications, fees, accommodations, more fees, licensing, more fees, and fees for the fees.

There were many rules and restrictions. Some seemed totally crazy and all felt quite inconvenient.

For example: toilet paper. This was and is a precious commodity in Cuba. In public restrooms, an aide oversaw the toilet paper. Your small payment, yes indeed this is not a typographical error, I did say small payment, permitted the restroom aide to bless you with one square. Hence the heading of this little missive.

So, when COVID-19 dared to invade our country, our minds, our rush to prepare for the unpreparable, toilet paper became a hot commodity. Shelves were naked where thousands of rolls of toilet paper used to sit. Folks panicked, going from store to store to stock up on precious toilet paper.

And all I could think about was, “oh my G-d, here in the U.S. of A. we are hoarding toilet paper of all things.” Taking the lead from Cuba, I began to tout the use of one square per bathroom visit.

Can you picture this? Too much of a visual for you? Think about this: we don’t have to pay for each square. Let’s hear a resounding “halleluyah”!

So, as we fight this new intruder into our lives, consider each square of toilet paper as precious, perhaps even more precious than a diamond.

Now everyone, dance and sing out there, and play Four Square – the game!

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