I live in an urban area because I love food and love having so many different restaurant choices around me. As a producer of Jewish food events, I am eternally grateful for the time and talent of so many area chefs. And as a working mom of two, I love the stress relief restaurants can offer me at the end of a long day.

So I felt proud and empowered this week when Devra First stepped up and wrote in The Boston Globe, “If you want to see a terrifying vision from the ghost of Boston future — one that could well come to pass — try getting takeout from your favorite restaurants in January and February. All closed? If help doesn’t come, and soon, this could be what the dining landscape looks like in the longer run: decimated.

Devra states the facts well, so I won’t reiterate. But here’s why I agree, and think we all need to speak up.

For months, I have been watching friends in the restaurant industry jump into superhero mode: shifting their businesses and priorities to deliver food to those in need, raising money for laid-off employees and fellow restauranteurs who were in trouble, and shifting business models entirely in a matter of days in an effort to serve us and stay alive. And no one reached out to help them. The government didn’t meaningfully step in to support an industry that employs 9% of our commonwealth and that suddenly lost all revenue in a matter of weeks. Thirty-five percent of jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector have disappeared, and already in Massachusetts, 3,400 restaurants have gone out of business.

When I talk to these chefs, I hear them saying: “We need to be able to close for the safety of our customers and staff, and we need to be able to pay our teams to retain them, because if we lose them, we lose our business.” These restaurants aren’t just looking out for their own bottom lines—they are looking out for their communities, which are so central to our larger community. Many of their staff have no safety net. And this is not just a short-term problem—this has a long-term impact that would make it incredibly difficult for the restaurants we love to ever come back to life, or new ones to start.

While we can’t solve this alone, we at the Jewish Arts Collaborative have made a commitment to supporting restaurants whenever possible. We’ve worked with restaurants to promote deliveries for holidays and events. We’ve spoken with chefs about these issues over the last few months in our JLive online conversation series. And, most significantly, we’ve made a commitment to use our Taste of Israel restaurant week to support restaurants this spring. While the lead goal of this program is to share the diversity of Israeli cuisine and culture through the plate, we also see the goal of the year as the ability to drive traffic to these restaurants that need the support.

So, if restaurants matter to you like they do to me, here’s what you can do:

  • Order food for takeout directly from the restaurant and pick it up yourself. Third-party delivery apps take a large chunk from the restaurants for their service.
  • Support federal relief for restaurants. This relief will help stop the spread of COVID-19, stabilize our local and national economies and make our communities the places we love to live. The current relief bill in Congress that seems likely to pass provides no specific aid for restaurants. There is a bipartisan bill, supported by Massachusetts and national independent restaurants, that would provide needed support—the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020. But despite the fact that this bill would likely pass in the Senate, it was not allowed onto the floor before Thanksgiving. Your support for the bill could help make a difference that will provide needed relief to this vital industry. Visit Mass Restaurants United and join their efforts.

Join us in a renewed effort to support an industry that we’re sure has served you, that helps your friends and neighbors and that provides jobs not only in their establishments, but to farmers, fisherman, ranchers and all manner of industry suppliers throughout the state and country.

This issue isn’t just about whether you or I can enjoy a lovely night out. This is about the future of our community, about those who work in it and make it the beautiful and delicious place we love to live.

So, please, join me in advocating for the future of our restaurants.

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