Responding Jewishly to the Pandemic

In a superb Webinar sponsored by JCPA, Rabbi David Wolpe presented a number of ideas for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of Jewish values. Acknowledging the very real fear and concern that we are experiencing (appropriately!), he nonetheless suggests that we should look at this situation clinically, concentrating on what we should do rather than how we feel. Indeed, now is a time to step up and do what we can to support our Jewish and general community.

Many are – and will be – suffering economically. For those who are mostly unaffected financially, we will need to show our generosity. I will shortly be meeting with the leadership of Rise Up Rockaway, and we will be exploring ways we can safely help others. We may be asked to be a drop off location for food or other necessities, or we may be asked to help deliver such things. Not everyone in our community will be able to be involved physically – we hope that everyone who falls into a high-risk category is carefully following the guidelines to stay healthy! But many of us will be able to act, so be prepared!

In the meantime, it is tremendously important to stay in touch with people who may be isolated, particularly older people and others with underlying conditions. Make a point of calling friends and family who fall into this category. And please, notify the synagogue office if you know (or think) someone needs particular assistance. I will, over the next couple of weeks, be trying to reach many in our congregation. If you are aware of someone who needs a call/visit, please let me know. Again, anyone should also feel free to call me, or schedule an appointment if you are willing to step out! We could also meet for coffee and sit at a large table….

Another point Rabbi Wolpe made is that we don’t want to engage in “social distancing:” we should engage in physical distancing, but we must engage in social connection. We have a wonderful community, and though we may not connect in person, we can through the telephone and the internet. We are all going through this together, and White Meadow Temple is a community that is here for all its members. Please watch for the ways in which we will offer programs and activities, either through the phone or online. 

This Shabbat, we conclude the Book of Exodus, and do so with the familiar words, Hazaq, Hazaq, v’Nithazeq: Be Strong, Be Strong, and We will be strengthened! What a wonderful message for our times!

Rabbi Charlie