Re: Ethical Responsibilities of Genealogical Organizations during the Global COVID-19 Pandemic #guidelines #education

Jeffrey Mark Paull

The U.S. has been administering doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since mid-December.  As of mid-January, there was an average of almost 900,000 people getting their first doses of the vaccine each day. This pace might change, but based on the recent rate, it could take a full year – until January 2022 – for every American to get at least one shot, according to data analyzed by The Wall Street Journal. See:


Although the IAJGS International Jewish Genealogy Conference is still over six months away, conference registration and hotel reservations begin in March.  It is unrealistic to think that the majority of Americans are going to be vaccinated by then, or even by July, when final travel arrangements, including airline flights, are generally made.


Last year, the decision to cancel the in-person event, and to hold an all-virtual conference was not made until May of 2020. This resulted in a lot of uncertainty and inconvenience for everyone, as travel plans had to be cancelled, and refunds processed.  In addition, the lateness of the decision left little time for the IAJGS to plan a virtual conference.


This year, as we prepare to go down that same path again, perhaps it would be beneficial if the IAJGS, rather than making their decisions in a vacuum, opens the decision-making process to include as many stakeholders as possible.  For instance, why not poll speakers, attendees, and registrants of the conference to find out what their preferences are regarding an in-person international conference vs. an all-virtual conference?  A hybrid event offering speakers and attendees the option for either in-person or remote attendance, is another possibility.



If nothing else, opening up the decision-making process would give the IAJGS a feel for the number of people interested in attending an international in-person conference, to see if hosting a live event this year is even feasible.


It would also be beneficial for the IAJGS to provide speakers and attendees with a way to share health-related information with one another on its social media platforms. With so much variability between different states and countries in regard to COVID incidence, prevalence, and vaccination rates, as well as the ever-changing landscape regarding COVID testing requirements, and dining and travel restrictions, it is important for attendees of an international conference to have a mechanism for sharing information, and for communicating with one another. 

These suggestions may not represent business as usual for the IAJGS, but then, extraordinary challenges, such the ones we are facing in the midst of a global pandemic, call for extraordinary measures.
Jeffrey Mark Paull

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