By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
When the Apollo 13 oxygen tank failed and there was a risk that the three astronauts would not return to Earth, people said the accident was the worst disaster NASA had ever experienced. Flight Director Gene Kranz responded, “With all due respect, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”
In the face of an extraordinary global health challenge, this is a time for rethinking and reorganizing to adjust our personal and community lives. We are doing what we must to protect our families, but Jewish life does not stop —not for a virus, not for anything else.
Our highest priority is protecting the collective health of our community. The Federation’s SAFE Washington program is serving as the hub of information for our community organizations. SAFE is bringing to Jewish organizations the latest requirements and guidance for protecting people, especially those in higher-risk populations, and slowing the spread of the virus.
I want to give a shout-out to all the Jewish organizations throughout the Puget Sound region that have made difficult, unprecedented, but critically important decisions to protect our community and implement alternative ways to serve as they are able: canceling, postponing, and adapting programming, canceling major fundraising events, live-streaming Shabbat services, holding virtual Megillah readings, and more! There are so many examples of our wonderful community organizations doing what is necessary and pulling together for the greater good.
Along those lines and following the guidance of public health agencies, our Jewish engagement programming has been re-imagined through the end of Passover. We have postponed the Community Trip to Israel as well as the Honeymoon Israel second Seattle cohort trip. As we put necessary measures for social distancing in place, nurturing social connections is more important than ever. Social connections to the community that we treasure are as critical to our health as safeguarding ourselves from the virus. We have to get more creative and to that end, our engagement team is developing strategies for keeping those connection wires humming until the time comes when in-person gatherings are safe once more.
A great way you can stay connected is to stay in touch with our social media channels, Facebook and Instagram, where you will see fun videos of Lisa the Librarian and her puppy Meeko getting ready for Passover as they search for hametz, make charoset, and lose the afikoman while reading our favorite PJ Library books. And on Monday, we’re going to kick off a fun community activity you can join in on from the comfort of your home—PJ Library March Madness! While the basketball March Madness won’t be happening this year, ours will. Pick your favorite PJ Library books from our downloadable bracket and then watch our March Madness web page or check us out on Facebook or Instagram to see if your picks have advanced to the next round.
Responding to the coronavirus outbreak has not interrupted the vital ongoing work that Federation carries out on behalf of our community, including our advocacy work in Olympia. Watch for a summary of our significant, impactful results for Jewish Puget Sound in the Washington State Legislature, which gaveled its 2020 session to a close yesterday.
I also want to note that we can only do this with your support. It’s needed now more than ever. During these times of crisis, please remember that since the day we opened our doors over 90 years ago, our overriding goal has been ensuring Jewish continuity, through thick and thin. With your generous support, we can ensure that we can serve our community, now and in the future.
As a people, we know a thing or two about confronting and defeating adversity. As we, collectively and responsibly, do what we must to protect ourselves and get through this crisis, as I know we will, let us act always in the spirit of kol yisrael areivim zeh ba-zeh – all Jews are responsible for one another.
We are all in this together. We are stronger together. Stay well.