Corona's impact on the Jewish community

Dr. Steven Tzvi Pirutinsky of Touro’s Graduate School of Social Work assesses the impact of the pandemic and analyzes coping strategies.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Dr. Steven Tzvi Pirutinsky
Dr. Steven Tzvi Pirutinsky

Coronavirus has upended lives all over the globe. For the Jewish community where so much of daily life revolves around religious and social gatherings, the outbreak has been particularly devastating. From daily minyan to life cycle events such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, circumcisions and funerals, Jews are a people who congregate.Before social distancing was mandated, these gatherings were a tragic factor in the spread of the virus in the Jewish community, and once people went into isolation, the changed character of Jewish gatherings took a psychological toll.

To assess the social and psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Jewish community, Dr. Steven Tzvi Pirutinsky, associate professor at Touro College Graduate School of Social Work, is conducting a research study. The views, feelings and thoughts of Jews from all over the globe, representing every denomination will be represented in this research.

The study was designed with the assistance of Drs. David Rosmarin (Harvard), David Pelcovitz (Yeshiva University), Aaron Cherniak (Stockholm University), Moshe Krakowski (Yeshiva University), and Yitzchak Schechter (Applied Research and Community Collaboration Institute).

“We wanted to look at what factors affect mental health during this outbreak, assess what coping strategies work for different people and make recommendations that can help people moving forward as future challenges arise,” said Pirutinsky.

In terms of the factors affecting mental health, the researchers will look at exposure to Coronavirus directly and through media, mental health, and what role Judaism plays in helping people cope with these situations. They will also look at compliance with medical and government recommendations as well as recommendations from religious leaders and the trust people place in each of these authorities.

“A key factor we will assess is the role of the media in contributing to stress. We will look at both news and social media –how often people are checking their social feeds, tuning in to news broadcasts and reading news articles and how this barrage of information is helping or hurting them,” said Pirutinsky.

Researchers will look at age differences in coping mechanisms and generational challenges and the relationship between ages and life stages and ability to cope. These patterns will likely differ, according to Pirutinsky, from a young person with less responsibilities to parents with young children at home and elderly, isolated people who are at higher risk from the virus. They will also look at which subgroups are hardest hit –those from particular geographic areas, the differences family size makes and those who identify with particular segments of the Jewish community.

Coping Strategies – the Good and the Bad

In terms of coping strategies, they will look at both positive and negative methods including social activity, exercise, religious strategies, various forms of entertainment, as well as substance use.

“We will look at what role Judaism plays in helping people cope. What happens when religious rituals and activities such as going to shul, attending weddings and getting together with family on Shabbat and holidays are unavailable? What is the role of faith in coping with a crisis? In this context, we will also look at the passive or active approaches people take in terms of medical attention. The question of the degree to which people feel G-d cares about them in this crisis and whether He is sending a message to the Jewish people will be addressed as well,” said Pirutinsky.

More than 500 people from around the world are participating in this study and it is still open for additional participants.

“We really want to see how people are coping with this crisis –what’s more effective and what’s less helpful. We want to understand how Jewish people react to crisis, what role religion, culture and social circumstance play in the degree to which people are impacted and how they cope. We assume there won’t be another coronavirus, but there will certainly be other major challenges for our community and we believe we can make future recommendations for what works based on this experience,” said Pirutinsky.

Those interested in participating can take the 20 minute survey here