To say this has been a difficult week would be an understatement!
News reports are consumed with COVID-19, the coronavirus. Its impact is far reaching, and the news will likely get worse before it gets better.
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, a “worldwide spread” of a new disease -- something it has not done in 11 years. As of this morning, the United States has more than 1,600 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus. This number will only grow.
Because the coronavirus is spreading quickly, professionals in our Jewish community are in regular communication with public health officials to stay abreast of the latest developments. In addition, we are closely monitoring information from the Oregon Health Authority, as well as those from federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
Beyond the impact on people’s daily lives (more on that below), many “gathering opportunities” are being curtailed. Governor Brown has said no gatherings of more than 250 people. Public schools are closed until April. The NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS have all suspended their sports seasons. Both the NCAA men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments (March Madness) are canceled. Disneyland and Disney World are closed. Several major cities will not be holding their St. Patrick's Day parades. My daughter is coming home from college for spring break and staying as thousands of college students will finish their term with on-line classes. And there will be plenty more closure announcements ahead.
Nothing is more important than everyone’s health and safety.
On a local level, community organizations have their own policies and procedures in place. Our synagogues, Jewish day schools, Jewish pre-schools, and Jewish agencies are communicating with their constituencies about their changes/closings. Please check the community calendar for event cancellations and postponements.
The Jewish Federation, for example, has set the following policy:
The Jewish Federation is working closely with all Jewish organizations in monitoring this issue.
We cannot say this enough:
While we try and maintain our own health and safety, let us not forget the impact this virus is having on our economy. The stock market is experiencing wild swings, planes are flying half-empty, people are eating out less, and the list goes on. All of this will have a dramatic impact on people and their livelihoods.
It is possible we will see layoffs at companies. Owners of small stores and restaurants may need to close. There may be need for greater emergency financial assistance. Program revenues at Jewish organizations may be impacted. Our Jewish community is already actively looking at these issues and next week our Jewish organizations will discuss appropriate action plans to assist people during these difficult times.
So, with all of this, many of you already know that last Friday we notified the 400 participants on the Jewish Federation’s Centennial Trip to Israel (departing on March 18) that we were postponing the trip. At that time, we felt we could not take people. And then, a few days later, Israel announced that all arrivals in Israel from any country would be required to be quarantined for 14 days. This made the trip impossible. We knew we had made the right decision.
It all happened so quickly. There were so many unknowns. The Jewish Federation Board, our Israel trip co-chairs, Federation professional team, our tour operator, and travel agent have truly been remarkable through all of this. And we are all committed to celebrate as a community in Israel. We plan to announce new dates in the near future (right now, there are more important issues on people’s minds).
Postponing the trip, which we have been planning for the past three years, was a giant “punch to the gut.” Disappointment could not even begin to describe the emotions of many involved. We are, however, grateful for the supportive response from all the participants and community members as we work through this unprecedented situation.
As I finish writing this week, I need to remind myself, even after these difficult past few days with more to come, that we are commanded to have increased joy during the entire month of Adar (and not just on Purim). So, let’s all take a step back and focus on the good things in life as we move forward through these challenges.
Shabbat shalom and stay healthy.