It’s hard to believe that just four weeks ago, as we celebrated Purim, our schools were working through a particularly rough flu season and synagogues were running full programs and services. We knew a little about the novel coronavirus, but not much. And we certainly didn’t know what to expect.
Now we know — and it’s not pretty. In the relative blink of an eye, our lives have moved indoors and online. For some, the loneliness and sense of isolation is intense. For others, it is simply the “new normal,” which requires creative adjustment for otherwise busy lives.
As our community welcomes the Passover holiday, and as we edge toward the commemoration of Yom HaShoah and the anticipated celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, we can’t help but think that we’ve seen at least some of this movie before. Today’s experiences bring to mind recurring questions about the history of our people: How did we survive the destruction of the Temple? How did we maintain our communities and institutions through the massacres of pre-modern Europe? How did Jewish life survive the devastation of the Holocaust? And how did half a million Jews in an encircled Palestine overcome an enemy pledged to their destruction?
One of the answers is Jewish resilience — similar to what we are seeing play out in today’s perplexing pandemic. Within a week of the “outbreak,” our schools closed and moved online; synagogues revamped their offerings through online prayer, classes, concerts and programs; and Jewish institutions promoted outreach to community members in order to preserve connections and reduce isolation.
Our communal agencies became the sources for critical health, safety, social, financial and communal information, and serve as anchors and creative resources on myriad topics. t’s impressive. And it should make us proud. But we shouldn’t be all that surprised. While the context of life during the coronavirus pandemic is new, resilience isn’t, and Jewish resilience is certainly nothing we haven’t seen before.
We are inspired by the many ways in which that resilience has been manifested. Children are sewing face masks, a basic need for first responders. Special food deliveries are being arranged for kosher-observant health care workers.
Programs are springing up to run errands for to those who cannot leave their homes. Adjustments are being made to religious observances to account for virus-related limitations. Survivors of the virus are donating blood to help researchers treat COVID-19. And the list goes on.
There were suggestions that COVID-19 should be counted as the 11th plague at our Passover seders. But we preferred to add the concept of Jewish resilience to the seder’s Dayenu song, in recognition of our collective, inspired reactions, borne of our faith and our belief in the value of community.
We look forward to continuing to celebrate the magnificence of Jewish resilience in the years ahead, when our recovery from the servitude of the coronavirus is viewed as another impressive communal accomplishment that brought us new freedom and achievement.