Steven Windmueller
Is it Good for the Jews?

The Coronavirus: Emerging Realities and the Jewish Community

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.

Working from home, teaching on-line classes, and managing business and policy decisions by employing zoom conferences will represent three aspects of the new operational model that will replace the traditional institutional patterns of handling work-related assignments.

 Economic Dislocation as a Potential Reality: Will we see a quick rebound, a possible global slowdown, or as a result of the measures taken to manage this virus, will international markets experience a recession?

The long-term impact of such an international health crisis is likely to create an economic crisis for significant sectors of the Jewish communal system. Relatively few organizations have adequate reserves to withstand a significant downturn over any sustained period in program income, fundraising, and/or membership dues.

It is also quite possible that we are likely to see a significant number of individuals and families suffer financial losses due to losses incurred in the financial markets and a decline in income as a result of lost wages and layoffs.

Dealing with Isolation and Loneliness: Many individuals living alone and some family units are likely to experience serious periods of isolation. This condition should prompt organizations and synagogues to regularly reach out to their members.

 Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories Abound: It should not be a surprise that some are taking advantage of this current health crisis to make assign to Jews and/or Israel various conspiratorial ideas referencing this virus as a Jewish-created event designed to negatively impact others.

Building and Re-Building Connections:  In one of the first surveys on the impact of the Coronavirus on lifestyles, individuals are reporting an increase in the number of text messages, emails, tweets and phone conversations as a way to remain connected and to reopen communications with old friends, family members and acquaintances. People are reporting that they are watching more television and have increased time for reading. In these early days, the new conditions are seen as generally favorable. Will that hold to be true, should this crisis last for weeks or more?

 Managing Information:  How the community manages information will be particularly critical. Clear and consistent messaging remains essential. It becomes very easy to allow rumor to replace facts in these uncertain circumstances.

About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
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