01 September 2020
Each year, at the beginning of September, we tend to look back on the summer that was, already nostalgic for the long, happy days of relaxation. We feel renewed after taking a break from work or school, spending time with family and friends, and pausing to recharge for the coming year. Summer traditions, like all rituals, mark time and provide us space to reflect as we move forward from one season to the next. They help us know we are anchored in time by something solid, even when we feel adrift.
But, of course, the summer of 2020 was devoid of these usual markers of time. Many of us are feeling unmoored by the end of this season, which seems to have come upon us suddenly and with few of the usual warning signs.
My own family gathers each summer for our annual beach week. This year felt different for many reasons. One of my children arrived two weeks early to quarantine just to be able to join us, and once there, none of the 15 relatives really left the house except to go to the beach. Still, we were lucky and appreciative to be able to hold our traditional summer ritual and be with each other as a family.
As a community, we find ourselves scrambling to adapt to new fall routines. Children are opening their Chromebooks each morning for a day of virtual learning instead of running to catch the school bus. College students are at home instead of settled into dorm rooms. And households are letting go of the family car as they no longer need to commute to offices. Establishing these new and different habits can feel deeply unsettling.
Without the rhythms that normally allow us the space to pause and reflect on where we are going, it seems more important than ever that we find opportunities to create new rituals and connect to sources of meaning and comfort. It is up to each of us to discover ways to be in community, to feel connected to one another, and to avoid feeling isolated.
Jewish life offers us a rhythm that we can rely on, even in unsettling times. This year, some households will join neighbors to hear the shofar blown in a park on Rosh Hashanah. Some families will find connection by sharing backyard drinks after separate shabbat dinners. Still others will plant festive lawn signs to include the broader community in celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah that only immediate family could attend in-person.
And our Jewish community offers leaders to inspire and sustain us as we navigate uncharted waters. I invite you to explore some of the many sources of wisdom in our own community through Wisdom and Reflections for a Very Different New Year, a new Federation initiative designed in partnership with the Washington Board of Rabbis, to help our community journey towards the High Holiday season together. Or explore Federation’s Jconnect, a virtual resource to engage with Jewish life through local events, spiritual content, learning and volunteer opportunities, and more.
Most of all, I invite you to reach out to neighbors and friends who may also feel uprooted. Encourage or invite them to join you in any of the creative ways you’ve discovered to connect and mark time together as we bid farewell to a most unusual summer. By nurturing and growing our sense of community, we can find new ways to mark the seasons together, with adapted rituals and the comfort of deep roots.