Before I go any further, I hope you and your family had a good Thanksgiving, given the circumstances which we have been facing. I know that it was most definitely not the Thanksgiving you envisioned having this year as you left last year’s festivities. And if you are like me, with Hanukkah beginning next Thursday, you are already feeling a bit sad that there will not be the same excitement and anticipation of Hanukkah this year.
However, as I keep telling myself, I don’t need to feel this way. Yes, it will be sad not being able to celebrate in person with our community for our annual Festival of Jewish Music, at our respective synagogues looking at all of the menorahs lit up, or at many other Hanukkah celebrations. But, the possibility of people getting sick from being near and around people who may not be as responsible as we feel we are being, is not an alternative I am willing to jeopardize my life (or others). It is just not worth it.
As I am sure you heard, the US Supreme Court determined that New York’s restrictions on the number of people who could gather at houses of worship violated the Constitution’s First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. While this was not a surprise, I was saddened by this decision because it goes against everything I believe all religions preach. Just because we wish we could gather doesn’t mean we should. And as I have stated previously in this column, our community has never closed during this pandemic… we have just adapted. In fact, it has been reported that more people have attended religious services and other synagogue programming than ever before.
Is there a different feeling of being together in person as a community? Unequivocally YES! But is it worth risking both your life and those with who you come in contact? In my mind, the answer is a resounding NO! I think that often people forget that this current situation is only temporary and sometimes we need to do what is right for the safety of others. As an example, Judaism teaches us that there are certain circumstances where it is okay to break the laws of Shabbat, especially if a human being is in danger. While there is no way to know if attending any sort of gathering is going to get someone sick, there is enough research to show that it greatly increases the risks.
To that end, I appreciate and applaud the continued efforts our local clergy have made to make sure their congregants stay as healthy and connected to their respective synagogues as possible. Thank you to our clergy for caring so deeply for the health and well-being of our community.
And one last thing… today is #Giving Tuesday. It is a chance to join others in support the nonprofits you care deeply about and have had an impact on your life. I can assure you that the support you give will not go unnoticed and will be used to continue the valuable work all nonprofits do for us and our community.