Statement from JFN President & CEO Andres Spokoiny:
Over the last few weeks and especially the last few days we, like so many others, have been alarmed by the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and trying to navigate the uncertainty it has created.
With the latest developments, it has become clear that holding our March 22-24 conference as planned is no longer an option. We are hoping to postpone until a later date and are exploring potential options. We will let attendees know as soon as we can provide more information.
We apologize for the inconvenience this causes. As you can imagine, this decision was not made lightly, but only after our staff and board spent long days of researching, discussing options and, frankly, agonizing about the best course of action in this unprecedented situation. Unfortunately, pandemics don’t come with a user manual and we needed to readjust our scenarios over and over to reflect hourly changes in the situation.
We know that many participants – like us – wait for this conference with eagerness and enthusiasm and that they make many personal and professional plans around it. We also know that many valuable initiatives in the Jewish world get critical exposure at our conference; partnerships get formed and joint ventures developed. For many of us, the conference is a source of energy and ideas, an event that enriches the philanthropic agenda and thus makes the community better. But our primary concern – now and always – is the safety, health and well-being of our members, our conference participants, our leadership and our employees.
As late as last Tuesday, we thought that the conference was still feasible with enhanced sanitation protocols, but in this rapidly evolving environment, the events of the last few days proved decisive. Especially, three factors became key in our decision to not go forward in March
- The Israeli government’s announcement last week that any Israeli attending a conference overseas will be quarantined upon return, de facto eliminates the possibility of Israeli JFN members to participate. Israeli philanthropists have become an integral part of our network; creating partnerships between Israel and the Diaspora is a key part of our work, so holding the conference without them would have made us feel like a body without a limb.
- Many organizations – including many Jewish foundations – have restricted international and domestic travel. That means that, besides the loss of participants, many of our esteemed colleagues and friends would have been deprived of the networking and learning opportunity that JFN represents.
- The fact that AIPAC participants have tested positive for COVID-19 shows that the virus is already present in our community and, given the interconnectedness of the Jewish world, that increases significantly the risk for any Jewish event.
This has not been an easy decision and, as you can surmise, we are writing this with great disappointment and even sadness. We worked tirelessly towards this event, and we were all looking forward to seeing our members and spending an enriching and stimulating conference together. Many of our participants are not just JFN members but personal friends, and the fact that we won’t be meeting as soon as we hoped adds heaviness to this decision. But it’s important to remember that JFN is not just a conference. Over the years, together, we have built a treasure: a community that is diverse and yet cohesive; a big tent that is an island of civility in a sea of polarization; a platform to share, learn and debate the big issues of the Jewish world; a place where big dreams and hatched and ambitious projects come to fruition; a network in which we work and grow together.
We are happy to refund registration payments in full but we ask, with humility, that registrants consider the significant financial burden cancellation on short notice will place on JFN. If any participants are willing to donate their registration fee, we would be profoundly grateful. We will shortly have information on how to handle hotel cancellation and return of deposit. As we are presently working with our hotel partners (PGA Resort, DoubleTree and the Hilton Singer Island) on the cancellation arrangement, we ask registrants to refrain from calling the hotels directly, and send all questions to [email protected].
We hope to find a new date and that we can reconvene then. In the meantime, we encourage members to engage with us in the many programs and events that JFN offers on a weekly basis, including new programs to cover some of the conference topics in virtual form and smaller settings.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to the JFN staff, especially David Ezer, our VP of Programs, whose commitment and professionalism has been invaluable over the past few weeks. I also want to say how blessed we are to have a board that is wise, committed and supportive, and our conference chairs Karen Davidson and Shula Mozes have been exemplars of leadership and menschlikeit. Finally, my deep thanks to the many members of JFN who offered support, assistance and creative solutions, or simply a word of encouragement and empathy. These attitudes are a testament to the beauty of our community and the richness of our network.
I hope everyone in the JFN family and their loved ones remain healthy. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.Share