Like many of you, I have migrated my office to the dining room table for the last two weeks. Somehow, all the time I should have available to learn a new language, take up coding or catch up with old friends have yet to materialize. Between Zoom calls, homeschooling my children and keeping up with all the WhatsApps, I am yearning to return to the sense of order, peace and quiet by the proverbial office water cooler.
But something else is bothering me. With all of us at home socially distancing ourselves, we have perfected a new skill: complaining at a distance. We all lament (to ourselves, to family, or on social media) about those not pitching in, staying out of the societal effort to end this plague. The group at the beach or the protesters standing too close to one another, the shul that didn’t close soon enough, or the funeral with way too many people. And we are right.
But let’s put our focus somewhere else. Let’s focus on hope. Let’s focus on the positive. With Pesach just around the corner, here are four questions I put together to help us refocus our observations and the resulting reactions.
Leket: Why is this organization different this year than in all other years? In all other years, one of Leket’s main sources of food is leftovers from corporate and mass events. Today, this cornucopia has vanished, yet they and their supporters are rising to the challenge. They are recognizing that this challenge notwithstanding, they still need to care for all those that depend upon them – and they are. They have increased their fundraising significantly to acquire food to feed those in need.
The IDF: Why are our armed forces different this year than in all other years? In all other years, the Israel’s Defense establishment protects us from physical foreign enemies, but in this war, they are finding creative ways to help. From setting up Corona hotels, to securing and transporting lifesaving equipment, all leveraging relationships built over years of cultivation.
Philadelphia’s Kohelet Yeshiva High SchoolThis year, they have transformed their science lab and their 3D printer into a mini lab producing face masks to help protect people from the virus.Why is this school different this year than all other years? In all other years, Kohelet’s science lab teaches their students wishing to learn about the latest in high-tech and 3D printing.
GESHERAnd why are my own colleagues at Gesher different this year than in all other years? In all other years, our entire programming method is based on physically meeting “the other” and breaking down stereotypes and barriers. This year, they looked at the developing situation and asked “What can we do?” Within days, they developed a brand new program: to pair a religious family with a secular family – and through an online facilitated discussion are accomplishing the same goal. Families divided by religion, geography and culture who would otherwise not meet are now meeting and getting to know one another on a deeper level. Last week, our calendar was completely full running these sessions and more and more families keep on signing up.
If you ask me, this should be our focus during these crazy times: Leket, the IDF, Kohelet and Gesher. And these are just four small examples of so much good taking place.
This crisis will end at some point. And then what? On the one hand, we can channel our feelings to distrust, critique and despair. But there is another option. We can use this time to hope for – and more importantly, plan for, a better tomorrow. Hopefully, in the years ahead, we can look back and say that we used “Corona time” to build a future in which we all rededicate to giving more of ourselves to others. Now, if we can truly say that, Dayenu!
The writer is the International Director at Gesher, which is building a cohesive Israeli society that embraces the vibrancy, diversity and shared heritage of the Jewish people.