a white man with a black mask over her nose and mouth stands at the front of a classroom
Henry Wagner teaches fourth and fifth grades at South Peninsula Hebrew Day School in Sunnyvale in 2020. (Photo/Courtesy SPHDS)

The local Jewish response to Covid has shown us at our best

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Resilience, persistence, ingenuity and generosity. These watchwords aptly describe the Bay Area Jewish community’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. As we mark the somber anniversary of California’s statewide shelter-in-place order, we remember those we lost and look ahead to better days, coming soon.

For this milestone, we at J. wanted to do even more. Our comprehensive cover package this week (in the March 19 issue; online here) includes the most thorough examination yet of the impact Covid-19 has had on the infrastructure of the Jewish community, and how brave, creative leadership kept our institutions afloat. Every story included in the package augurs a strong comeback in the months ahead.

That resilience could be seen in synagogues rapidly adapting to services held on Zoom, an innovation that not only kept congregants in touch but also allowed people outside of the area to experience services at local shuls. The same phenomenon has been reported by local Jewish organizations that put their lectures and events online, and have noticed people tuning in from far away and a general uptick in interest from locals. It’s a change that most likely will continue after the pandemic is history.

For an example of community persistence, look no further than local Jewish day schools, which quickly adapted to distance learning and then, when primary grades reopened for in-person learning, did what they had to in order to make school a safe and happy haven once again. Even with strict public health protocols, our elementary school kids are back in the classroom. As one Jewish educator told us, “The word is out that Jewish day schools have rocked it.”

Volunteer Valerie Testa delivering groceries to JFCS clients. (Photo/Dorit Israel)
Volunteer Valerie Testa delivering groceries to JFCS clients. (Photo/Dorit Israel)

Ingenuity guided so many in the Jewish community, even as they faced the loss of their livelihood. Our story on the local arts community highlights those who found ways to carry on, from online paid performances to teaching and lecturing via Zoom. JCCs, normally so dependent on programming, found ways to hold paid (though mostly free) online classes, performances, lectures and other offerings, helping to stem the financial losses caused by the shutdown.

And finally, the generosity of our community — never a secret — came into full flower over the last 12 months. Our story about local social service agencies revisits extraordinary efforts made in response to the crisis. Nonprofit organizations such as Hebrew Free Loan, Jewish Vocational Service and JFCS on both sides of the bay stepped up with loans, training and emergency assistance to make sure no one in our community was left behind. The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation kept faith with so many local institutions, providing desperately needed financial aid when they needed it most.

The emerging picture is one of a community that knows life will occasionally knock you down. It’s how you get back up and carry on that matters. We honor all who refused to give up during a year unlike any other.

We wish our readers a very happy, and safe, Passover.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens editorials as the voice of J.