Keeping Connected when you can't!
The Covid 19 virus arrived like a bad storm toward the end of February 2020. No one really knew what is was and how it was going to affect our reality.
At the beginning of March new regulations were being publicized, people from the age 60 and over were told to stay at home.
Our Megillat Esther reading that was planned months before was shadowed by the fear of this unknown disease.
By March 15th schools closed and so did our afterschool program. Two days later the staff was told that they must go on vacation without pay for an unknown period of time and we had to close our synagogue.
We couldn’t believe that this was happening. The only thing that was on our minds was how could our members pray? How could we serve them from afar? How can we still be connected if we can't leave our homes? We decided to do everything we could to help our members feel normal in this abnormal situation.
Luckily we have the technology that enables us to stay connected. E-mail, WhatsApp, and Zoom. We entered a new world of online meetings, events and prayer services.
But the personal connection was not forgotten. Phone calls were made to our older members that were in quarantine asking if they needed any assistance and if they would like to have a cake delivered to them. More cakes were delivered by volunteers during the weeks that followed. With every cake that was given a smile was returned (even though it was behind a mask it was still felt) and a connection was made. A connection that lasted for months.
With the end of the first lockdown we reopened our doors. We were allowed to have prayer services for a small number of participants.
Many changes occurred over the next months. Masks were worn at all times, Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies were held with only a handful of people. Only 30 children participated in our summer camp that usually has around 100. We continued our work during the second lockdown that dramatically hurt our high holiday services that were mostly on Zoom. We gave out honey cakes and prayer books to those members who were still afraid to leave their homes.
Winter came and with it regulations that let us only have 10 people gather inside – and 20 outside. Heaters and blankets were bought in order keep everyone warm during services. We missed our schmoozing and mingling after the Kiddush on Fridays. We wanted to see everyone face to face. But since we couldn't we decided to have a Havdalah ceremony on zoom every Saturday followed by a lecture given by one of our members.
The vaccinations arrived like a ray of light and with them a hope that we will soon be all together again – drinking a cup of wine and eating a piece of cake.
With the celebration of Passover with our family and friends I feel that we are we getting back to normal and we are free to leave our house, gather, pray.
Reconnect. That was our goal from the beginning. Connecting between our members.
Becoming a whole community that lives and laughs together during the good and bad times.
And like B'nei Israel who were freed from Egypt and led to a new life we have been released after a difficult year to a new reality and with a new appreciation to those personal and professional bonds that keep us sane and happy.
I hope that you – our friends and partners are staying safe and healthy!
Claire Homans Bouzaglo