At first, it was just Wuhan. Now virtually everyone around the world has had their lives changed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Here in the Bay Area, 7 to 8 million people in nearly every county have been ordered to “shelter in place,” going out only for urgent needs or to work in certain critical industries.
What are those industries? Grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, police and fire stations, public transit — and, yes, media outlets, which are on the official list of “essential services.”
In a crisis situation like this, we all turn to the media to find out what’s happening and how we can protect ourselves. It’s the truest example of the media as public servant.
At J. we take that responsibility very seriously. As your Jewish community publication, our mission is to inform, inspire and strengthen you, our readers, telling our Jewish stories, bringing us all closer together and nurturing those connections.
In the past two weeks, we have focused on how we can best perform our mission in the face of this unprecedented situation.
On March 6, when just a few synagogues and JCCs were canceling services and other events, we started an online list and reported the closures as they were announced. We updated it constantly until virtually all public events had been shut down.
This week we have turned our attention beyond the immediate closures to look at the longer term. What will be the financial fallout as Jewish agencies cancel events and JCCs are no longer able to serve the public? As parents are stuck at home taking care of children while schools are closed? How are Jewish social agencies taking care of people experiencing increased anxiety, and the homebound seniors who rely on them for critical needs? What are rabbis and others doing to reach out to the most vulnerable populations?
The shelter-in-place policies coupled with social distancing practices are forcing synagogues to reimagine their spiritual offerings. Services in the liberal denominations are being livestreamed or held via Zoom. B’nai mitzvah celebrations, weddings and funerals are limited to small family gatherings. Some rabbis are organizing online Kaddish minyans, so grieving Jews can fulfill that holy mitzvah.
Just as at many offices, most of J.’s staff has been working remotely. After going to press on March 18, the small crew that has come into the office to finish the current issue will be joining the rest of the staff at home. We are developing new ways of working, using new technologies that require us to think differently and interact with each other with heightened sensitivities.
We won’t let you down.
Stay safe, and stay home.