13 March 2020
In a recent article, Rabbi Reuven Fink of New Rochelle, NY wrote about the effect the coronavirus has had on him and his congregation. He described the many tough disruptions but also the many acts of kindness and consideration he witnessed in the wake of the congregation-wide quarantine. As he wrote, “A crisis can bring out the best in people. It is bringing out the best in us.”
Here in Greater Washington, we too are drawing on our strengths in order to meet the needs of our community members. Agencies and Jewish communal organizations who operate across DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia have met and outlined plans for teaming up and lending support to each other’s efforts. Each individual organization is also continuing to assess how they can best meet the needs of their constituents and contribute to a healthy and safe environment in these rapidly changing times. All of us remain in close contact with one another and are following updates from the CDC, the State Department, and the local Departments of Health in real time. I can assure you that Jewish Greater Washington is equipped to respond to a broad range of scenarios.
I can say this thanks to the incredible work that our community has done over the course of many years to build a communal infrastructure. As anyone familiar with crisis response will tell you, the best way to prepare for a time of need is to put strategic mechanisms in place long before a crisis arises—and that is exactly what we have done as a community. We have been investing in and strengthening organizations that serve the most vulnerable among us. We have been testing out new methods for collaboration and partnership. We have implemented extensive security and safety protocols. And we have been cultivating a vital sense of connection. We are prepared because our strong and caring community is already in place.
Speaking of which, in the coming days and weeks, it will be on all of us to put our care into practice. Quarantined or not, there are many people out there who live alone or are disconnected from the broader Jewish community. I encourage you, while respecting effective health and safety guidelines, to reach out to those neighbors or acquaintances who could use an extra helping hand or even friendly phone chat. Indeed, as we weather the outbreak of a disease best treated in isolation, now is a time to make our presence felt in each other’s lives.
As Rabbi Fink reflected, if there is any upside to spending time in quarantine, it is that he has had time to slow down, to think, and to pray. “Contemplation is good for the soul,” he writes. I agree, and would add that so too is community. Though we will likely face challenging situations to come, I encourage us all to use this moment to strengthen our bonds and do what we can to show up for each other in the kindest, most creative ways possible.