Rabbi Sandra Kviat
18 March 2020
We are living in interesting times, as the saying goes. We are all grappling with what the coronavirus means for us, those we live with and those we care about. We all seem to feel the same overwhelming need to act.
In our house that meant the realisation that we (I) had inadvertently bought several kilos of parsnips and a lot of garlic, but no pasta. It was a hilarious and sobering discovery, and a reminder to keep calm.
But the need to act, to feel that we are doing something, is important.
For though we might have stocked up, or feel ready, ourselves – our focus should be on how we can also support others in the community; those who might have to self-isolate, those who might not have a large network, those who are vulnerable and/or those who may just appreciate a friendly phone call.
Faith plays a key role. At times of anxiety, our Judaism can give us comfort. Our prayers take on extra meaning and the values of our religion come to the fore. The beauty of Judaism is the care we have for each other and how we value life.
My colleague Rabbi Jonathan Romain flagged three Jewish principles for this time that I think worth sharing – 1) dina malchuta dina (the law of the land is law); 2. pikuach nefesh (saving of life); 3. al tifros min ha’tzibbur (never separate yourself from your community).
In meeting the third, at our synagogue, we have developed a skills register – giving us an overview of members’ skills, qualifications and passions. It only takes a few minutes for people to fill in online but it means that we can arrange phone tree, and food/medicine drop offs, if and when the need grows. A simple willingness to help is a skill.
Streamed and online resources – such as those listed on the Liberal Judaism website – and Skype/FaceTime check-ins are a great way not to lose our sense of community, as we reach the point where we cannot physically get together.
I also like the idea of WhatsApp groups – especially when tailored to common ground so there are groups for example of parents with young children, or those with elderly parents – as a way to share information and support.
This is a worrying time for many, especially as there is so much uncertainty, but we should not lose sight of the importance of helping each other, of being kind, and that coming together – whether in person or virtually – to celebrate and support each other is vital.
[This article will also appear in The Jewish News]
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