How will coronavirus concerns impact the upcoming Jewish Funders Network conference?

coronavirus watch

Attendees at the 2014 Jewish Funders Network conference in Miami Beach

UPDATED 3/8/2020: In an email to participants Saturday night obtained by Jewish Insider, the Jewish Funders Network said it was postponing the conference, noting that the “primary concern — now and always — is the safety, health and well-being of our members, our conference participants, our leadership and our employees.”

March 5, 2020

Not cancelled — yet: The Jewish Funders Network conference will go on despite growing public concern over the Covid-19 virus, say organizers of the upcoming annual convening, which is scheduled to take place March 22-24 in Palm Beach, Florida. In an email sent to participants on Thursday, JFN said that a decision on whether to cancel the conference had not yet been made, adding that some registrants have already cancelled. “We are in the midst of serious discussions about how to proceed, exploring a variety of options, including, but not limited to, cancelling or postponing the conference,” the statement said. Five hundred funders, foundation professionals and philanthropy experts have already registered to attend, a JFN spokesperson told JI.

Monitoring the situation: Marcus Foundation President Jay Kaiman told JI that his foundation, which has a close relationship with the Centers for Disease Control, is monitoring the situation. “We are using sensible judgment and stressing to the staff flexibility if they feel travel is appropriate or not appropriate for them. As of now we are using the same approach for JFN and will be attending,” Kaiman said, noting that the continued spread of the virus could change those plans. 

Purell on site? Aaron Dorfman, president of the Lippman-Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah — whose founding director and board chair is the executive chair of Gojo Industries, which manufactures Purell hand sanitizer — said the foundation plans to participate. “I will not be surprised if they cancel it,” he told JI. “A lot of large gatherings of people that include international presences are postponing or cancelling.” Dorfman noted that a number of his foundation’s grantees are scheduled to attend the conference, and “the opportunity for them to share their work with our colleagues is obviously invaluable… At the same time it’s not worth anybody getting sick.”

Added challenge for Israelis: More than two dozen foundation professionals and issue experts from Israel are listed on the conference schedule as speakers. Israeli health officials announced this week that those who have attended international conferences have been ordered into quarantine upon their return to Israel. Flights from Israel to a number of European destinations have been cancelled, complicating flight plans for individuals with stopovers en route to Florida.

Hoping for the best: Tel Aviv University professor Dan Ben-David is slated to speak about his work with the Shoresh Institution for Socio-Economic Research. He is planning to go to the JFN gathering — “if they still have a conference and if I’m allowed to go from Israel,” he told JI. Ben-David told JI that the conference attendees are “some of the most important foundations and funders in the Jewish world…It’s very important that these guys get a big picture of what’s happening in Israel.”

This post was updated on March 8, 2020.

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