Even though the Jewish year doesn’t end and begin anew in a few days, it’s difficult not to feel a sense of closure when December 31 rolls around. It comes with the territory and besides, we are all eager to see this year come to an end.
Two things to remember: life won’t fundamentally change just because the calendar tells us it’s a new day, and 2020 wasn’t all bad.
Don’t get me wrong, it has been a challenging time for many and my heart breaks for especially the health care workers, teachers, EMTs, morticians; all those who were on the front lines. Most of them are exhausted and traumatized. Even when the vaccine becomes something that we all have access to, it will be years before we can repair the emotional damage—if we can do so at all.
Nursing home residents who have been isolated, anyone who needs face-to-face interaction and can’t access it, people who live alone. It’s no wonder some of us get a little heated when seemingly healthy people don’t follow the social-distance rules (I hear you, Tom Cruise).
But: there are good things. Some of you had babies. Some of you got married. Some of you found a strength you didn’t know you possessed. Some of you found new ways to help others. Some of you learned something about yourselves: when push comes to shove, you show up. You will do what is necessary, whether it’s convenient or not. And all of you opened your hearts.
This community has shown a reservoir of kindness and love, patience and sheer determination in the face of tragedy that is remarkable. We’ve watched from afar as the staff at our Rose Blumkin Jewish Home has given their all—and then some.
The work that was done by the staff members at Jewish Family Service deserves enormous accolades. So do all our clergy who, faced with closed buildings, never gave up but relentlessly pursued their goal of taking care of all of us. People invented new programs, made phone calls, sent cards and held Zoom meetings aplenty, without any guarantee it would be over soon.
Health classes went online, schools went remote, the JCC came up with a socially distanced learning space where kids who couldn’t go to school could come and do their remote learning so their parents could go to work. Countless people baked and dropped off food on people’s porches. Passover seder meals were delivered all over the city and giant menorahs were erected outdoors so we could still light ‘together.’ Masks were sewn, videos were sent, we did anything and everything possible to remain a strong and unified community.
As a community, we can and should take a little pride in all we have accomplished this year. But only a little; this thing isn’t over and we can’t give up now. We’re all tired, we’re all beyond ready to move past COVID-19 and get to where it’s just a memory. That day will come.
For now, let’s remember that there is one central idea we can all get behind: when we see a need, we will do what is necessary. When we see a need, our distractions fall away.
We talk often about ‘community’ and what it means. It’s probably the most-used word in the Jewish world. If not, it’s at least in the top five.
But it’s easy to say nice things when life goes well, when everything is calm. It’s during times like these that we really find out what we are made of, what we look like underneath the skin. It’s during times like these that we lift the curtain and find the truth about ourselves, discover how strong we really are together. And knowing what we know now, I hope you’ll feel as I do: we are incredibly lucky to have each other. During good times and during bad times, this community really is bigger than the sum of its parts and we are all lucky to belong here.