I hope that Jewish World readers are staying safe by isolating at home, as the novel coronavirus is cutting a swathe of illness and death across our country and around the world.
As the Jewish World went to press this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 981,246 cases of COVID-19 infection and 55,258 deaths from the virus in the U.S.
To put this latter figure in perspective, the number of our compatriots who have died from the coronavirus over several months is approaching the American death toll over 20 years of the Vietnam War.
This comparison was made by Nick Turse, writing recently for The Intercept: “It took 20 years, from 1955 to 1975, for the United States to lose 58,220 men and women — 47,434 in combat — to the nation’s most divisive conflict since the Civil War. In less than four months, just as many Americans will have died from the Covid-19 pandemic… [is] a few thousand shy of the total number killed in Southeast Asia. In short order, America will pass that appalling milestone. If this is indeed a war, as President Donald Trump has described it — in his words, ‘We’re waging a war against the invisible enemy’ — a question can be asked: Where and how will the dead of this conflict be memorialized?”
Indeed, what would a memorial to the COVID-19 dead look like?
Turse writes: “It took two 200-foot walls made up of 70 separate panels to list the more than 58,000 dead on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Just how many names — of grocery store employees, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, custodians, meatpacking plant workers, doctors, nurses and EMTs — will need to be etched into a Covid-19 memorial won’t be known for years. Some projections put the total number at more than 67,000 Covid-19 deaths by August. The White House previously warned of the possibility of as many as 240,000 fatalities. Some estimates put the number at 300,000 Americans lost to the disease over the next several years.”
Again, we hope that our readers take precautions against this onslaught, heed the advice of medical experts. (And don’t inject yourself with cleaning products.)
For the staff at the Jewish World, the past several weeks have been quite busy. We moved from our offices in St. Louis Park, where we were ensconced for the past seven years, to an office suite in Uptown, the hip commercial district in Minneapolis that now is mainly shuttered. With the help of my sons, Jonas and Isaac, and a professional moving crew, we organized, shredded, tossed and moved the Jewish World’s files and equipment to our new location. Over the past two weeks, I’ve been exploring what is one of the fancier neighborhoods in Minneapolis, the area around East Bde Maka Ska Parkway. The scenic city lake is just a few short blocks from the office.
As most of our readers sheltered in place, our staff has been hard at work and mainly working from home. When Gov. Tim Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-20, which took effect on March 27, certain “critical sector” businesses were exempted from the stay-at-home directive, an attempt to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infections and mitigate the burden on our medical infrastructure. As it turned out, the American Jewish World fell into the exemption for communications and information technology businesses — “newspapers, radio, television and other forms of news media.” So, we continue to roll along and bring you this unique Minnesota Jewish view of the news.
However, the economy around us has collapsed and we wonder who will advertise in the newspaper — and who will be paying invoices that we sent out. We have the Keren Or arts supplement in the May issue; the “A” section is just 12 pages, due to a paucity of advertising. Of course, all event-related ads are gone, and many businesses, including ours, are analyzing their cash flows and pondering how to make it through the coming months.
On the upside, the Jewish World has received generous donations from some of our readers to help defray the cost of the office move. And our little publishing company also got a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, which is administered by the Small Business Administration. As its name suggests, the PPP, part of the federal economic stimulus legislation, is intended to help small businesses maintain payrolls through the end of the year, when these loans could be forgiven.
We plan to continue publishing this newspaper, which has become a pillar of the Minnesota Jewish community over the past 108 years. That said, we have seen the recent demise of the Canadian Jewish News, a national Canadian publication. Also, in early April, the Jewish Chronicle, which was founded in 1841 and is based in the United Kingdom, announced that it would stop publication.
“With great sadness, the board of the Jewish Chronicle has taken the decision to seek a creditors’ voluntary liquidation,” the newspaper’s management announced, according to a story in the Financial Times. “Despite the heroic efforts of the editorial and production team at the newspaper, it has become clear that the Jewish Chronicle will not be able to survive the impact of the current coronavirus epidemic in its current form.”
The JC had been planning to merge with another British paper, the Jewish News; but that paper will close, too. The JC staff, numbering 54 employees, journalists and support staff, would be made “redundant,” as the British refer to the unemployed.
As I point out from time to time, the existence of the Jewish newspaper you hold in your hands is not an immutable law of nature, like the rising of the sun in the eastern sky. We appreciate the support of our subscribers, many of whom have been getting the Jewish World for decades. We understand that our journalistic product is held in esteem by thousands of readers in the Twin Cities and beyond. We will continue to work hard to keep the newspaper going. And please feel free to contact me with your suggestions.
Mordecai Specktor / editor [at] ajwnews [dot] com
(American Jewish World, May 2020)