Two days before the annual bazaar of Alianza Monte Sinai, one of Mexico City’s Jewish communities, was to open, Bella Mercado was adamant that the event—which she and dozens of other women had been planning since the fall—be canceled this year. For the past 30 years, the Women’s Union of Monte Sinai had organized the event for women in the community to exhibit their wares, ranging from prepared Passover foods to kids’ clothing to bridal jewelry, and earn some additional income. This year’s bazaar, hosting 120 vendors, would take place from Sunday, March 15, through Wednesday March 18, to give women the chance to do their Passover shopping weeks ahead of the holiday.She had feared this might happen since January, when three vendors had to cancel their booths because their merchandise wasn’t arriving from China, where the spread of the novel coronavirus was causing hospitals to overflow and factories to shut down. Following the news as the virus spread across the globe since then, she began to get scared, because 1,000 to 1,500 people in her highly social community visit the bazaar each day it's open.“I thought about it faintly. I didn’t really think it was something that would happen here in Mexico,” Mercado said.But then the Central Committee of the Jewish Community, an affiliate of the World Jewish Congress and the body that oversees all of Mexico’s Jewish communities and intercommunal institutions, started sending out directives and communiques. The first one, published on March 5, urged people to practice good hygiene measures like frequent handwashing and to abstain from listening to news from unverified sources. Six days later, a second communique announced the first confirmed case in the community and urged calm, stating that the disease was not yet widespread, neither in the country nor in the community, although there would surely be more cases in the weeks to come. The Central Committee urged community members to follow the directives of the Health Ministry and continue practicing good hygiene. The next day, after the World Health Organization declared the spread of the virus a pandemic, the tone of the communiques shifted, first directing adults 60 years and over to avoid events with 100 people or more and, less than two hours later, suspending events of more than 100 people.Mercado didn’t need to hear more to know that the event had to be canceled.“It didn’t make sense to have it if people over 60 wouldn’t be able to come. Women over 60 are the bazaar’s main clients, because they’re the ones who host the Seders for their families,” she said. “Also, all of us on the organizing committee are over 60 and there were more than 100 vendors. If one person had it and spread it to just six other people, it’d be all over the community, and if even one got critically sick from it, I don’t even want to imagine…” She trailed off.The day after the booths had gone up, they came down, leaving only a grocery set up with basic Passover provisions. Even though Mercado thought her decision logical, it wasn’t easy. “It was controversial. People had invested in their merchandise and their booths. Some women on the board were upset that we took this decision without consulting them, but we had to act quickly. For a few days, I agonized over whether we did the right thing,” she said.The events of the next few days would tell her that they had.At the time, Mexico’s government had stalled on implementing social distancing actions, and its populist president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has been widely criticized for his nonchalant response to the pandemic as he continues to hug supporters on his tour across the south of the country, holding rallies, and repeatedly stating at daily press conferences that his high moral character make him immune to the virus. Flights from countries with large outbreaks like Italy and Spain were still welcome in México, and a music festival with more than 100,000 attendees was still scheduled for the weekend when the bazaar was supposed to have been held.The disease, which had first come to the country through wealthy people who had contracted it while traveling abroad, had not yet become widespread. A cluster of cases in the state of Jalisco, as well as the cases of several executives, including the CEO of Jose Cuervo Tequila and of the head of the Mexican stock exchange, were traced to Vail, Colorado, where they had been skiing.Four hospitals in Mexico City that are part of the network of public health institutions across the city were prepared to be converted to COVID-19 treatment facilities. Dr. Jorge Castañon, who is overseeing the conversion of the Hospital Juarez, Mexico’s oldest hospital, said that the hospital has 400 beds, 75 ventilators, and 24 ICU beds. The whole country of 120 million people has a little more than 2,000 ventilators. By comparison, New York state has a little more than 5,000 and is already calling for 30,000 to meet the predicted surge in cases at hospitals.While community members were going away to country and beach homes for the long weekend, schools debated whether to stay open, and the presidents of each community and the directors of the Central Committee debated what measures to implement across the whole of the Jewish community. In the week after the Passover bazaar was canceled, as local and national governments around the globe grappled with how to respond to the crisis, the Jewish community in Mexico took its own measures to keep its members at home (and not at those of close relatives), take all of its activities online, and prepare for worst case scenarios in which the medical system fails.Jewish community-wide collaboration is not straightforward. There are six Jewish communities in Mexico City, encompassing between 75,000 and 100,000 people. People have a strong sense of affiliation to their own community based on ethnicity. “Each community is a bit like a country within a country,” explained Rabbi Abraham Tobal, the chief rabbi of Alianza Monte, the community for Jews of Damascene and Lebanese descent. “Each person pays a mandatory membership fee to the community and the community offers services to its members from birth until 120 years. It’s not like the U.S., where people belong to a synagogue. Here, people belong to a community, and each community has many synagogues. As the chief rabbi, I make decisions for all the synagogues of Alianza Monte Sinai. Each community also has its own elected board of directors.”The other three largest aside from Monte Sinai are also Orthodox and traditionalist: Maguen David for Jews of Aleppan descent, The Kehila Ashkenazi for Jews from Eastern Europe, and the Sefaradi Community for Jews from Turkey and the Balkans. Then there are also the two smaller communities of Beth El, a Conservative community of Ashkenazi Jews, and Beth Yisrael, a Conservative community of English-speaking Jews from the U.S. In addition to having its own synagogues, each community has its own schools, community centers, event spaces, cemetery, chevra kedisha, food pantries, gemach, mikvahs, and Talmud Torah. There are also some intercommunal schools, a Hatzalah emergency service, and a massive sports center, but, for the most part, each community works on its own to govern the everyday life of its members, with intermarriage between communities being a rare occurrence until 20 years ago.However, when it comes to dealing with matters external to the community, like relationships with the government, the communities come together through the Central Committee, on which the president of each of the communities has a seat. The Committee’s communications division, Tribuna Israelita, makes statements to the public on behalf of the community. The Central Committee also deals with matters of safety, like organizing the community’s volunteer security corps and negotiating the rescue of hostages during the peak of Mexico’s kidnap-for-ransom epidemic throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The coronavirus epidemic again called for cooperation.Before Shabbat, the Central Committee sent its fifth and sixth communiques about the coronavirus, announcing that a rabbi who had come from Israel to visit many Jewish schools and synagogues had tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to the hospital. The directive urged people who had come into contact with the man to self-quarantine for 14 days and to go to one of two private hospitals to get tested if they began to display symptoms.“The directives were signed by the presidents of every community and the head of the Central Committee, so I knew they were serious,” Mercado said.Principals and teachers at the more than 15 Jewish schools across the city scrambled over next steps, taking any precaution they could think of to ensure their students’ safety. But the stress levels had picked up with the communiqués. “The chat groups were going off nonstop. Parents were worried about what they would do with their kids,” said Ana Strimlingas, the principal of the elementary portion of the Colegio Hebreo Tarbut, an intercommunal trilingual day-school with around 800 students. She recalled feeling like a new directive from the Central Committee and from Vaad Hajinuj—the nonprofit that oversees all the independent Jewish schools in México—was coming every hour that Friday with stricter guidelines.Starting on Friday, the heads of the different Jewish schools, along with the head of Vaad Hajinuj and directors of the Central Committee, decided that they would close all schools immediately, at least until April 20, after Passover. Taking advantage of the long weekend, they had four days to set up classes on Zoom and Google Hangouts, so that when the children came back from the long weekend, their remote school would be ready.That Sunday, the Central Committee issued its most extensive directive, announcing the closure of all Jewish schools and all community spaces. It shared a link to a new website where community members could report symptoms, see a tracker of the cases in the community, read medical guidelines, and connect to a 24/7 hotline answering questions about COVID-19 as well as another hotline for emotional support. The directive also urged the postponement of weddings, limiting attendance at the chuppah to first-degree relatives, postponed all bar mitzvahs, restricted burials and shivas to first-degree relatives, and limited brises and pidions to the home of the baby. At no event were there to be more than 10 people. Temples could remain open for services, but they could have no more than 20 people, all to be seated at least six feet apart.That day, Rabbi Tobal met with the other rabbis of Monte Sinai as well as the board of directors and other leaders to discuss what additional measures they would take. “At the meeting, we agreed to close all the temples. I thought it was very important that we take drastic measures,” the rabbi said, adding that “these measures are based on Torah and ample rabbinical sources. What impelled me to action is a religious perspective, which many don’t realize, that God asks that we protect our health above all else. Even if we say that only 20 people are allowed, what happens if another one shows up? We can’t kick him out. We can’t make sure people aren’t touching surfaces. We can’t make sure they sit far enough apart. Since we can’t control for all of these risks that could jeopardize people’s health, it was better to suspend the minyans.”“I was very upset because in New York, they now have hundreds if not thousands of cases in some communities because they kept having services in synagogues and they kept having weddings,” said Tobal.Wednesday, March 18, was the last prayer service at Monte Sinai. All the other communities followed suit, and now all its synagogues are closed as are all those of Maguen David, the Kehila Ashkenazi, and the Sefaradi Community. “We shut the synagogues, we closed up everything, and I know that there are still a couple of weddings, but as much as it pains me, as much as it makes me uncomfortable to act this way, I will not officiate them, because we have to raise awareness and I need to preach by example,” said Tobal.Subsequent directives from the Central Committee have become more and more stringent, and insistent in tone, strictly banning in all caps and bolded letters Passover trips, the use of synagogues in the weekend resorts of Cuernavaca and Acapulco where many community members have homes, the use of common areas in gated communities and condos in the resort cities.“As Passover nears, it’s really worrying, because who can conceive of a Seder without your kids and without your grandkids? That’s really the hardest part for me right now, to not be able to give hugs and kisses to my grandkids, but this is what we have to do,” Tobal said.Kosher groceries are also implementing measures.“The kosher butcher shop by my house was closed and a worker was standing outside with a facemask taking orders,” said Sandra Silberstein, a mother of three. At the kosher grocery where Johanna Rabinovich, a septuagenarian Yiddish translator, shops in the Polanco neighborhood, people were allowed in two by two. Even so, she barely managed to find one box of matzo. A friend gave her another.One unintended consequence of the seriousness with which people have been taking the directives is panic shopping, not of cleaning supplies but of Passover products. All the women with whom I spoke said that the grocery stores have been cleaned out of matzo and that the butchers cannot keep up with the demand for kosher meat. Even though their guest lists will be smaller, they still plan to keep their tables full on the holiday. Monica Daniel, a grandmother of seven in her 50s, was happy that two weeks prior Lety, known in the community simply as Lety de las Kibbehs, because of her skill in making hundreds of the meat-stuffed croquettes at the heart of Levantine cooking, had come to her home to make the staple.Far from worrying that in a time of quarantine no one would want Lety to come, Daniel was grateful that she’d nabbed an appointment before the Kibbeh Lady’s schedule filled.“Lety will put on a facemask, and no housewife is going to let her cancel on them,” Daniel said. Lety confirmed that her schedule is still full of clients who pay her to go to their kitchens to fill their freezers with the highly labor intensive kibbehs.But, like other aspects of community life, this, too, can be accessed online. Some elderly folks who are alone in their homes get their groceries through KosherClick, an app to order kosher groceries and prepared foods. Other kosher groceries are allowing their customers to order online or by phone for delivery.The organizers of the bazaar launched a private marketplace on a Facebook page for the vendors that attracted 2,500 members within the first three days. “People bought the necessities like Passover food. I’m not sure whether much jewelry sold this year, but we decided to keep the group up for the community to keep using,” said Mercado. Other affairs, from community board elections to classes, were also moved online, tapping into already existing apps, social media channels, and large chat groups.“The work doesn’t stop,” said Tobal. “Right now I’m working with someone in Israel to organize a live online forum of classes, organizing it all of course, from my house. Later tonight, I’m going to host a Facebook Live where people can write in with all their questions for me to answer, so the work goes on.”The day before Tobal held a webcast interview on tutororah.tv (Your Torah TV) on the coronavirus. “A famous Gemara at Bava Kamma 60 says, ‘If there is plague in the city, gather your feet, and limit your time out of the house,’” he said, citing scripture, to urge viewers to stay at home.