Written by Yosef Shidler of CJ Studios
I am starting to lose it. On a very serious note.
Like hundreds in the Jewish community, my sole income revolves on the Jewish simcha market. Something that is pretty much squashed at this point. As a photographer, our business and personal income rely heavily on the heavy wedding seasons to stay afloat. While accountants base their seasons around that April 15th deadline, Jewish Weddings revolve around the Jewish calendar cycle.
Every year we lose almost half the dates to Jewish Holidays and dates that weddings are not allowed. This year with Sefirah in May, July and the 3 weeks, my work calendar like many has limited dates regardless of any COVID rules.
The Yom Tovim this year will be the Majority of September. This leaves a part of May, June, and August for the potential to hold some income. That’s without any Corona problems. Essentially with sefirah about to start, we have about two and a half months’ worth of time to make an income which is supposed to sustain us through at least October of this year.
Did I mention we had a disastrous pre-Pesach season, watching the wedding world being shut down by the police left and right? Then add the cost of making Pesach for a family. No luxury resorts. I could never afford that.
This holds true for hundreds in the industry, photographers, videographers makeup artists, musicians, singers, hall owners, chefs, and bridal attendants. The list is long.
Well, you always have the summer right? It’s bound to be a great season.
Ya mean – June? The month that I usually get to pay off my credit card debts from the whole year and have a little extra cash. The one where we usually have not one empty date on the calendar (B”H). Oh, ye that one – It’s gone. Not happening.
People are not booking weddings. Our calendar sits mostly empty, at a point it would otherwise be full. The people that are booking or already booked are not booking big weddings. They cant and they can’t. Particular because they are not legal at the present. People are planning small backyard events. Social distancing wedding. That’s also assuming they will even be legal. As of now, they are not. One photographer for a few hours is the request of choice these days. No more fancy weddings. That’s a thing of the past for now.
This situation puts thousands in the simcha market out of work. For who knows how long.
Currently, I need to fear the police and government to not chase after me with extreme fines and penalties in my attempt to make a few dollars to feed my family via underground weddings.
Yet, its these same government people who are telling me to stay home and help well be on the way. Good old Uncle Sam is going to send you money to survive. As of present, 30
plus days at home, I have yet to receive a penny. That didn’t stop American Express from asking me when I believe I will be able to offer them my next payment. I didn’t have the heart to let them know I was not a prophet. At present I am profitless.
Just like myself, most people don’t have money to spend anymore. The shutdowns being lifted for wedding venues is months down the road (if in sight at all). As of today, Diblasio made it clear no large events will be taking place in the city this June. The ability to stay, even somewhat financially stable at this point is unnerving at best. I know I speak for the position of hundreds in my industry.
Of course, I have my Emunah. I know full well Hashem is holding our hands and will eventually get us all through this; somehow. You can learn chovos halivovs and others and really strengthen your emunah. But all said It’s a very frightening spot to be in. Hashem brought us our amazing business and I have to believe he will get us through it.
I’m sure one day soon artscroll will be printing a book of Coronavirus miracles.
I am grateful to Hashem for the fact I am still alive and healthy. I am here with my family when others are left without a breadwinner. It’s an eerie prospect. I feel almost ungrateful writing my thoughts when you think about the devastation others have experienced and continue to experience.
We are lucky to be alive and healthy. I am lucky my family is likewise in the samespot. You keep saying thank you for every minute. Every time you turn on the Jewish media you see the Tehillim requests flood your WhatsApp and the calls for tzedaka for another widow with 11 children. Its heartbreaking. Its hurts all the more not to be in a position to drop money to help as I may have been able to do prior. Every day is another story. Unthinkable images of young children saying kaddish has become an all to familiar sight for us. We truly thank Hashem we are here and alive. Everyday a blessing.
My wife’s grandmother, 96, called last week from Florida to ask how we are holding up. Considering at my age she ran through Europe escaping the Nazis I would say we’re doing decently well.
Currently, we have next to zero income. We are living on emergency credit cards. Debts are piling up. We have zero way of paying the mortgage. Health insurance: on hold. Tuition forgets about it (Not to mention our girls can not sit still for a zoom classroom). Every side cost is being canceled. Each day trying to find another cost to cut down on. Many costs are simply being deferred to pay at a later date. I am not sure when that will be. It’s amounting to huge deficits for down the road. Will all these costs be forgiven when things reopen? I doubt very much that to be the case. Its insurmountable debt.
We have filed for the numerous government assistant programs of which none have come through (or we were told we would not qualify). I am not alone. I am the story of every American. I know that. Many far worse then myself. In many homes food on the table is scarce. But I am the story of millions of others like me around the world who can not make ends meet. All to no faulting of our own.
If I was lucky enough to be a citizen in Georgia or Tennesse today, perhaps we would see some hope to start our business. Today those governors said they don’t want to be responsible for people not making mortgage payments. I wonder if Murphy and Cumo have some magical solutions for us down the road so as not to be bothered by that issue.
The above-mentioned states are allowing pretty much for everything to reopen with guidelines of caution. In New York and New Jersey, we are subject to radical shut down extremes. We have no clue when this will end. It didn’t stop New York City parks from being full this Sunday with very questionable social distancing. Yet If I want to do a photoshoot to cover my groceries that type of work is officially prohibited. We are told to stay home. It will be great for you. You will save lives they say. We need to help the amazing health care workers. We are told it will all be ok. You must flatten the curve.
Let’s talk about that curve for a moment. The one that does not break any virus. The curve was and is all about not overwhelming the medical system. This is the very reason why Sweden did not go on full shutdown, as they understood allowing immunity with an initial high death toll is the easiest way to beat this.
Is that the right answer? Its been speculation for the experts. I dont know. I do know the United States is far from the clear with Corona. Even if things reopen it’s with high likelihood a second wave will hit in the fall. It will lead to more shutdowns.
Our bussiness’ are suffering. Majorily.
We did not beat Corona yet. Far from it. All the good news about numbers going down is a poor indication. It means that our healthcare system is not about to collapse. Ok Goodnews.
The current shutdowns allow the country to get corona albeit more spread out and at the cost of possible destruction to our country economically.
But of course, we need to stay home. No matter what. Right? Even if it means we enter a depression worse then 1929? Even if it means countless people could loose everything. Legitimately loose everything. Those numbers stand far worse then the Corona death tolls.
Let us keep dropping stimulus packages, paycheck reliefs, whatever you want to call them. Let’s keep sending them out until we are dry in the federal reserve. Can America really keep spending our way out of this mess? I am not so sure of that.
Again I have yet to see a penny of that money. I’m still waiting. No ten thousand dollar SBA loan to help a struggling small bussiness. No PPP loan. No stimulus check. No unemployment.I know many in our industry have not seen any of these checks. They are long in coming.
Where is all the financial reliefs that have been touted. When they come will they really make a diffrence?
We did not beat Corona yet. Far from it. All the good news about numbers going down is a poor indication. It means that our healthcare system is not about to collapse. Again that’s great news for now.
All the major corporations are getting the bailouts. Airlines to car dealers are seeing the big bucks. The 2 trillion dollar bailout had money for them all. The CEOs are not loosing too much sleep. For them, it’s about their friends in wWashington who will bail them out as needed. It’s the small business of America that will go under.
Its the small time wedding photographer who can not afford to operate in an extended shutdown. WE ARE SUFFERING.
Bottom line we need to find a better way. I am not God and I don’t know the solution. I speak for one industry of workers in the Jewish market but it’s really the voice of citizens all over this country. It is why people are fussing. Unless we all intend to be working full time for Jeff Bezos, we need to break the financial curve. The solution must be better than the problem.
If you know people in the simcha industry reach out and say hello. We are all suffering. Even more if you know a chosson or kallah reach out and give them chizuk they could really use it as well. We all need to be here for eachother. With all the distancing we need to unite in bigger ways then ever before.
Yosef Shidler a native of Denver, Colorado currently resides with his wife Sarah in Tom’s River, NJ. Together they run a well-known photography company, CJ Studios Wedding Photography.