The Morning After: What We Need to Know about the Coronavirus and Ourselves
As I have previously written, “the impact of the Coronavirus on the America will be profound, just as it will dramatically reshape the Jewish communal world.” Of particular concern are the significant number of Americans who will be adversely impacted first by the virus and then the Covid economy.
This major unfolding saga will need to acknowledge the deep emotional, physical and financial toll on our citizens. But this pandemic moment also provides us with an opportunity to extract what we have learned about ourselves, this nation, and our community.
The Jews Poisoned the Wells: Anti-Semitism in our Times
The Times of Israel
It is essential to understand that society has jettisoned a seventy-year time frame where the memorialization of the Holocaust was seen as sacred and essential to humanity’s understanding of itself and its inherent capacity to commit evil. Two lessons were conveyed during this period: a fundamental push back against political hate and genocide as a problematic proposition and a particular and distinct acknowledgement and sensitivity to the uniqueness of the Jewish historical experience.
In this era of the Coronavirus, we are observing a sharp uptake in anti-Semitic activities. Reports released by various governmental and Jewish organizations report an increase in anti-Semitic activity on the world stage. Over half (54%) of Jews in America have either experienced or witnessed some form of incident that they believed was motivated by antisemitism over the past five years.
What is Happening Now and Why? In this report, we are examining seven manifestations of anti-Semitic practice.
Moving Beyond: Strategies for Restarting our Community
This will be the most expensive crisis in history! The “economic pandemic” may be more painful and challenging than the health crisis itself. In the process of our national recovery, we will be rewriting the rule book on human behavior and organizational change. Already much has been written on the impact of the Corona Virus on long-term social behaviors, public policy, and cultural trends. Even on this site, we are reading various prescriptive ideas guiding us in our thinking about the future.
“If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).”
Throughout much of history, the Jewish response to plagues was to plead for God’s mercy and forgiveness. We are told in the Book of Numbers (17:13) when an epidemic killed Israelites following Korah’s rebellion against Moses and Aaron, the dying stopped only once Aaron burned incense to assuage God’s wrath.
American Jewry is facing a financial and structural crisis. The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be devastating to the American Jewish communal system and of immediate concern to a significant number of Jewish families and seniors. The longer this crisis continues, the broader and more destructive the impact will be on our communal and religious enterprise!
The immediate concern must be for vulnerable families and seniors as income streams are frozen and as communal resources diminish. The longer-term realities would suggest an economic tsunami that will be both wide and deep, affecting broad segments of the Jewish institutional landscape and placing substantial pressure on the core resources of our fundraising and foundation networks.
In this Moment: Some Reflections on Who We Are and Are Becoming
This is a unique moment in the history of humankind. Many of the core operating principles in connection with how people function and live in the world have suddenly and completely come undone.
Already on these pages and elsewhere, we are being introduced to the multiple and creative ways we are interfacing with one another, to the changing dimensions to our lives and to the forthcoming challenges we will face as a society!
As we have been reminded by our colleagues on this platform, we are encountering a new reality.
Managing the COVID 19 Epidemic: What the Jewish Community Can Learn from Prior Global Crisis and from this Moment in Time
Past Episodes: Over the centuries, humanity encountered other such health-related epidemics. Beginning with the Black Death (1246-1353), the world has experienced at least a number of such health-related crisis, including the “Third Cholera Pandemic” (1852-1860), Flu Pandemics (1889-1890) and (1918), Asian Flu (1956-1958) and the HIV-AIDS Crisis (2005-2012). In each of these global situations, millions of individuals would be impacted, resulting in the loss of lives, a significant disruption to the economy and to the social order. Following each scenario, we can identify specific lifestyle changes, the introduction of new health practices and habits, and changing institutional cultural and operational practices.
The Coronavirus: Emerging Realities and the Jewish Community
The Times of Israel
The New Business Arrangements: The end of in-house meetings, conventions, fundraising events, and communal gatherings is at hand. This current situation is already generating a number of new models for serving and reaching constituencies, donors and students.
Technology and the Reshaping of Work: Across the board, organizations, schools, and businesses will be creating alternative ways of sharing information and reaching their constituencies. Institutions will have a unique opportunity to employ online technology as a way to conduct business, educate and engage their key audiences. We are also experiencing a revolution in online services, phone outreach calls, and tweet messaging, as agencies mobilize their efforts to sustain connections with their base.
A new political nervousness is moving across the Jewish electoral scene as we observe the spring primary contests across the nation in advance of the 2020 Presidential election. Already dealing with a rise in hate politics, voters now must contend with the presence of a political challenge involving a Jewish American presidential candidate who is seeking to upend the traditional pro-Israel alliance. While many Jews are uncomfortable with Bernie Saunders’ campaign messages, remnants of the “red diaper baby” era can still be found among some Jewish Democrats. These socialist-aligned voters resonate with Bernie Saunders’ platform statements. In some cases these politically left activists tie their contemporary agenda to their parents and grandparents’ deeply rooted socialism.