By Michael Regenstreif, Editor
As I write, the world seems to be in a state of constant flux as COVID-19, the novel corona virus, spreads and governments, organizations, families and individuals take actions and precautions to slow the spread of the pandemic and mitigate its effects.
So much about this story has changed rapidly in such a short period of time. Not too long ago, we were looking at hot COVID-19 zones in China, Iran and Italy. Today virtually the entire world has been affected in some way or another.
Events, large and small, have been cancelled. South-by-Southwest in Austin, Texas is one of the largest music festivals in the world and it was one of the first major events to be cancelled. There have since been many more. Sports leagues – including the NHL, the NBA and Major League Baseball and others – have suspended or postponed their seasons. Broadway has cancelled all of its shows for at least a month and other cultural venues have followed suit. Here in Ottawa, the National Arts Centre and the Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe have cancelled all scheduled performances and events until (at least) April 5.
The House of Commons has been adjourned until April 20 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the Canadians in self-isolation at home because his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who had travelled to England for a charity event, was the second person in the Ottawa area to test positive for COVID-19.
Our Jewish community in Ottawa has been affected. Since, March 13, I have been working from home because the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin office is in the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) and the SJCC, like many facilities in Ottawa and across the country, has been closed as a precaution. The SJCC has announced it will tentatively reopen on March 30 but “will re-evaluate as the situation evolves.”
Meanwhile, the Ottawa Jewish Community School, like many Jewish day schools elsewhere, will remain closed until after the Passover break next month, and Hillel Lodge, like all long-term care facilities in Ontario, has been closed to visitors until further notice.
The first event cancellation or postponement I learned of in the community was Limmud Ottawa – one of my favourite annual community events – which was to have taken place on March 15 at the SJCC. Other community events, no doubt, will be cancelled or postponed in the days, weeks and, perhaps, months ahead. I would advise verifying with organizers that scheduled events are going ahead before leaving home.
Our lives will be more complicated until COVID-19 is under control, but even as we engage in precautions like vigilant hand-washing, safe sneezing and coughing, and “social distancing” practices ranging from avoiding large-scale events and nonessential travel (see Jason Moscovitz’s "Ideas and Impressions" column), to not shaking hands, etc.
Such adversities also have a way of bringing communities together. Click here for an inspiring story about how a large cluster of COVID-19 cases has affected the Jewish community of New Rochelle, New York.
Like so many in our community, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Jon Braun, the director of athletics, leagues and summer camps at the SJCC for more than three decades, and a beloved figure to generations of kids and adults in Ottawa’s Jewish community.
I met JB, as he was affectionately known, on my first day of work at the Bulletin in 2007. We’d see each other almost every day at the SJCC and had countless conversations about our common Montreal background, about our shared passion for music, about the community, about politics, and even, sometimes, about sports, even though I’m not much of a sports fan.
JB was passionate about his work and, appropriately, the SJCC has established the Jonathan Braun Camp Scholarship Fund at the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation to help support Jon’s vision that all Jewish children in the community have the opportunity to enjoy a great summer at one of the JCC day camps. Visit https://ojcf.ca/jb for more information or to make a contribution.
I know I’m not alone in offering my deepest condolences to JB’s family and to his many friends, but also to the entire community – we’ll all miss him.