Spring is here and it feels like a vacation with the bright sunlight and warm weather - but what a strange vacation! The COVID-19 lockdown has deprived us of much of the enjoyment of this lovely time of the year. It’s been almost one month since the Belgian government confined us and there is no end in sight. Our lives have taken on surreal dimensions. We are limited to essential outings. The IJC has stepped up to fill a void.
In this moment of anxiety, we have an opportunity to explore and think creatively about our community life. In-person gatherings are cancelled but virtual meetings are encouraged - and the IJC 2.0 has sprung into action.
There are meetings on Facebook and Zoom for Shabbat services, education and schmoozing. The transition to the new format would not have been possible without a group of volunteers including our Brian and Board members who put in many hours to create a virtual Shul. Another group of volunteers have put in place a Phone Tree to connect with members by traditional telephone.
Our lives have been disrupted by an invisible enemy and forced us to live in isolation. This is challenging. We long to be with the others, our families, friends, and colleagues. But we are adapting to this new situation. Some work from home. Many with children have been transformed into school teachers. We have learned to keep our distance and wash our hands more often. Most of our social life is now online.
When we log on and see each other and pray together our worries about COVID-19 recede, at least for a moment. We welcome Shabbat together. For me and many others, this has become a highlight of the week. In the current difficult circumstances, IJCers have been able to imagine and create new ways to keep us connected and to practice our Judaism. This resilience is a sign of a strong and united community and I’m proud of it.
When the pandemic recedes, not everything will return to “normal”. We may remain cautious about participating in large gatherings. We may not be able to hold traditional in-person services for some time and some may be frightened to physically gather in a synagogue. COVID-19 has given us to a new way of being together. Out of this painful time, we have gained a new perspective on our communal life. We will survive and will emerge stronger than ever.
Take care. Stay safe.