Harnessing Our Social Ties for Good: A Message from Gil Preuss

Harnessing Our Social Ties for Good: A Message from Gil Preuss

This Passover will indeed be different than all others. In a few days, we will gather around physical and virtual seder tables to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and reflect on what liberation means in our lives today—all while continuing to live in quarantine. The themes of freedom and affliction are sure to resonate a bit deeper than in years past as we reflect on the curves that the current pandemic is throwing our way. Hopefully, this moment in the Jewish calendar will bring with it some much-needed joy and an opportunity to check in with close family and friends.

This year, however, I also hope that our thoughts and actions extend beyond our individual seder tables to all those in need. We do not yet know the full impact of the coronavirus outbreak, but we do know that many people in our community will face unforeseen challenges when it comes to their physical, mental, and financial wellbeing. The Jewish community, in particular, is likely to endure an outsized impact from COVID-19. As scholar Samuel J. Abrams recently pointed out, Jews are one of the most socially intimate groups in America and our close ties make us especially vulnerable to the spread of infectious disease.

While this may be the case, it is this same structure that can also help us care for our entire community. If we harness our relationships and tap into our social networks, we can reach those people who may not be connected to any Jewish institutions. We can help get information to all those who may be facing the coronavirus outbreak alone or who may be struggling to cope with isolation or other health and financial challenges. All we have to do is spread the word.

In particular, I invite you to spend some time exploring our Connect with Purpose During COVID-19 resource site on Jconnect.org, and to share the resources you find there with your networks. Our Volunteering and Donations tab offers several ideas for ways to get involved and give back. You will also find special Passover 2020 framing and materials, a mental health resource list, parenting support guides, a humor tab, and more. In addition, Federation’s Israeli shlichim (emissaries) who usually work in our congregations, schools, and JCCs, are running Life: Online, a new virtual education program that includes cooking classes, Jewish philosophy discussions, Shabbat rituals, and learning opportunities for all ages.

Passover has always had an overt call to action. As Jews, we are compelled to retell the Passover story as if we ourselves had been brought forth from Egypt. In this highly unusual year, we have an additional responsibility to uphold as well. We may not find all of the supplies we need at the store. We may have more than four questions on our minds. We may face seder-related technical difficulties that our Jewish ancestors could have never fathomed. But no matter how different our celebrations look this year, we must also do what we can to harness our social ties for good.

Here is to next year in Jerusalem, in person, in health, and in community.

Shabbat Shalom and wishing you a healthy and meaningful Passover,
Gil