At the time that I am writing this, we are all currently stuck at home for the foreseeable future as our world is being ravaged by COVID-19. It is a scary time. It can also feel very isolating to not be able to leave the house to interact with friends and family who don’t live with us. We are experiencing both personal and collective grief as various gatherings, travel plans, events, and other plans are put on hold. Personally, I was sad to miss out on gathering in person for Pesach this year, and I will continue be sad that we are unable to meet in person for Shabbat. However, during this dark time, there is one light that I continue to see: despite being unable to gather in person, we are connected through technology.
Each week, on Friday evenings, we have had up to sixty members of our community greet Shabbat and pray together via Zoom. We have even been joined by members of our community who no longer live here and would otherwise been unable to join us. We also had something like fifty households joining our second night community seder via Zoom. Again, some of these community members would not have been able to join us in person. Our Saturday morning community has also expanded as a result of Zoom. And on Sundays, it gives me so much satisfaction to see the young people in our Religious School excitedly unmuting themselves so that they can talk to each other.
I have also benefitted personally from the world’s switch to functioning mostly online. While my family used to be mostly based in Los Angeles, we have spread out all over the country throughout the years, to New Jersey, DC, and mostly recently Florida. As a result, not all of us have been able to attend family seders every year in the past several years. This year, even though none of us were able to meet in person, we were all able to meet online and have our first seder entirely together in years. This technology has also allowed me to connect with old friends with whom I never would have otherwise connected. I grew up at a summer camp run by Zionist youth movement Habonim D’ror, Camp Gilboa. This year marks the twenty fifth anniversary of Gilboa’s reopening, and they had scheduled several festivities in the Los Angeles area. Of course, I wasn’t going to be able to fly to Los Angeles for these festivities. However, because they moved their festivities online, I was able to attend a happy hour with other members of the Gilboa community from the 90’s and an online havdalah for the wider camp community. Because of technology, I was able to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen since high school.
And so, even if we are not able to gather in person, know that we are all in this together. I urge everyone to continue to look for new and creative ways to connect to friends and family, as well as with our community here at Temple Beth Shalom.
Cantor Sara Kheel