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Saying Connected in the Age of COVID-19

By Rabbi Gabriel Botnick

 

 

It’s now been more than two months since we last celebrated Shabbat together as a community in person. During this time, we have introduced many online programs and services, but it’s still not the same. No longer can I welcome and check in with you during services, school drop-off, or other programs. And while many of you have been participating in our classes and services, there are still plenty of “regular” faces that I’m just not seeing anymore.

 

Which raises the question for me: What does it mean to be a community in the age of COVID?

 

One of the primary roles of community has always been to offer support to its members. If someone is ill, others provide meals and visits. If someone has a child, others join in the celebration and help welcome that child into the community. If someone loses a loved one, others show up to offer support and aid the mourning process.

 

What you may not realize, though, is that community relies on two-way communication: Someone reaches out to someone else to tell them what’s happening in their life, and that person responds in kind.

 

That initial outreach (whether made privately or publicly) is the most important aspect of this exchange without it, no one would know to respond. This outreach can happen by phone, but it’s far more likely to occur in person. A dear friend who’s contacted may then say something to others when chatting over Kiddush lunch on Shabbat, dropping off their child at school, or during a random run-in at the grocery.

 

However, in the age of COVID, when we’re all sheltering at home, the informal interactions that would normally help spread news simply aren’t happening. No longer are we gathering around a buffet line, carpool lane, or grocery aisle. If we do venture out of our homes, the people we encounter are wearing masks, making it difficult to tell who we’re even seeing, let alone if we might know them. So most of us keep to a very small social sphere – family and the closest of friends – and unless they live with us, even those interactions are occurring less frequently.

 

The one exception to this new reality is during our Shabbat morning livestream, during which we still offer opportunities for participants to share both names for Mi SheBeirakh (those in need of healing) and Simchas (joyous events) in their lives. Still, word just isn’t getting around like it used to.

 

So how can we retain the role of community in our lives during this difficult time? We can start by reaching out.

 

Let us know what’s new with you. Have there been any happy, recent developments in your life? Have you been struggling with anything in particular these past weeks? Do you know someone who’s been sick and could use a call? Please let us know.

 

 

Just because we can’t be there for one another in person doesn’t mean we’re not there – it just means we need to put in a little bit more effort to stay connected in this time of COVID.

 

May we all be blessed with peace, health, and well-being.

Rabbi Gabriel Botnick

Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780