Bulletin to temporarily suspend print edition
Unity government seems to be forming in Israel
By Michael Regenstreif, Editor
Paraphrasing the beginning of the Four Questions in the Haggadah, we all might be asking, “Ma nishtanah ha-Pesach ha-zeh, mi-kol ha-Pesachim – Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?”
The answer, as everyone knows, is the COVID-19 pandemic which has gripped the entire planet sending virtually all of us into social-distancing mode and, for many of us, some degree of self-isolation, for weeks now.
The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, of course, has been affected. With our office at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) closed since March 13, this Passover edition of the paper was produced under difficult circumstances with everyone working from our homes – sharing files electronically as we received submissions, wrote and edited the paper, collected the ads, did the layout and proofreading, made corrections, had online meetings, etc., all without any direct in-person contact. Much of that would have been impossible not that many years ago before we had highspeed internet connections with sufficient bandwidth to handle the load.
You will, no doubt, also notice that this year's Passover edition of the Bulletin is much smaller than in years past. The size of the paper always reflects the number of ads that are generated and this spring so many of the events that would normally be advertised are just not taking place, and most of the retail businesses that might have advertised are temporarily closed. As well, many of the organizations that would have normally used the opportunity of the Passover edition to submit articles about their spring activities did not submit such articles, or asked us to withdraw them, because their plans have been put on hold or cancelled.
All of this leads me to announce that we are regretfully suspending the scheduled print editions of the Bulletin until we are back in our office at the SJCC and the community begins to return to normal activity. All subscriptions will be extended for however many issues we are unable to publish.
However, while the print edition is suspended, we will continue to post articles and columns on the Bulletin website – www.ottawajewishbulletin.com – and will continue to report on important community initiatives. Many of our columnists will continue to submit their columns on a regular – perhaps even more than regular – basis.
We also welcome your letters, guest columns and articles to share with the community. We particularly welcome articles that will tell the community about how organizations, groups, families and individuals, friends and neighbours, are rising to the occasion of these circumstances. Already, in this edition of the Bulletin, we’ve published some of those stories about how we and our agencies – although practicing safe social-distancing – have been coming together as a community to help each other, and, especially the vulnerable among us, during the COVID-19 pandemic; and of how classes and discussions, and even some prayer services, are taking place online. I’ve no doubt there will be more stories to tell in the weeks ahead. Please contact me at email@example.com to make a submission or a suggestion for the online Bulletin.
It’s ironic, I suppose, that this year as we observe Passover, a holiday that celebrates freedom, we are adhering to needed measures that restrict our freedom to gather and celebrate as we are used to doing, and as we would like to be doing. Congregations cannot hold their usual communal seders. Friends and extended families cannot gather together for seders as they normally would. For the first time since we moved to Ottawa, my wife Sylvie and I are unable to return to gather around my mother’s table in Montreal on the seder nights. Most of us will spend the seder nights with just those in our immediate households. This will be difficult for all of us – but especially difficult for the many among us who live alone.
While we might talk with physically distant family and friends on the phone, and using apps like Skype, Messenger or FaceTime, or keep in touch over Facebook, the holiday this year, just won’t be the same.
But while we must keep our physical distance from each other right now, we also know that great challenges can also bring us closer together in our communal solidarity – and we’ve already seen so much evidence of that.
Meanwhile, some commentators in Israel are pointing to needed stability during the COVID-19 crisis for Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz finally – after three inconclusive elections in less than a year – seeming to agree to form a unity government in Israel.
As I write, on March 27, the negotiations are still ongoing but reports are that Netanyahu will remain Israeli prime minister for the next 18 months and then hand the office over to Gantz. (Of course, anyone following Israeli politics knows that no deal is done until it’s really done – and even then, you can’t always be sure it will hold from one day to the next.)
It appears, though, that Gantz is paying a price for his pact with Netanyahu as the Blue and White factions led by his now-former allies Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon will sit in the opposition benches in the Knesset.
Bear in mind, nothing is simple in Israeli politics and a big what-if are the three corruption indictments facing Netanyahu. The prime minister had done all that he could to avoid going to trial on the charges and was scheduled to be in court last month to finally face them. However, his trial had to be postponed due to COVID-19.