The Zoom Virus

By Lawrence M. Katz

Back in the fall of 2019, I recommended in an email that JAFI, JCCA, JCPA and JFNA would coordinate their Zoom calls so that Jewish communal professionals would have fewer conflicting webinars. The responses from some at JAFI, JCCA, and JFNA  seemed positive towards my idea. However, with the advent of the Coronavirus age, the problem has only gotten worse, like a spreading virus. Last week I had three Zoom calls/webinars the same day from different departments at one agency (emphasis added), along with two other calls from other agencies and a conflicting Zoom call from a fourth that would have been quite helpful. There were supposed to be a couple more, but I decided they were not worthwhile, and I was too exhausted. Besides, I had to get some work done. Next week, I have fewer Zooms on my schedule, but more conflicts, and I have not figured out how to be on two calls at once.

Just sitting through all of this, hour after hour, is also a problem.  Sometimes I turn off my video so that I may stand up, lift weights, do push ups, or just stretch as I listen.

The people in charge at these organizations must direct someone to maintain a single calendar that all employees of the leading organizations can check when they set up zoom meetings and conference calls. People may still have conflicts, but at least the conveners will see who will be meeting opposite them and can decide if their target populations overlap much.

This is the standard operating procedure for programs and events in the communities where I have worked. Before I set up a meeting within my organization, I check the calendars of everyone I want to invite, and I try not to schedule people for one meeting immediately after another. In addition, my agency also maintains a community calendar. Every organization and synagogue in Rhode Island should be checking on the community calendar before scheduling a program. Seeing what else is happening at the same time, they can determine if their programs would target the same audience as the programs of other agencies or synagogues. Not everyone plays along, but at least it works for much of the time. JAFI, JCCA, JCPA and JFNA should do the same for all of their meetings, zoom calls and conference calls.

I hope that someone in a position to resolve these conflicts might read what I have written. As I mentioned above, the conflicts are not just a problem now. I was complaining about this in the fall. The problem should have been resolved before it became worse.

Lawrence M. Katz is Director of Jewish Life and Learning, Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.