I won’t be at the congregation where I serve as rabbi this Shabbat…and it’s not because I am afraid of the COVID-19. Under normal circumstances, I would be there in order to ensure that we have a minyan during this difficult time.
The virus has found its way into NE Ohio and into the Jewish community. Unfortunately, there seems to have been a fair amount of exposure to those who attended the AIPAC Policy Conference recently in Washington, DC. This includes the clergy at a number of congregations here in Cleveland. I was asked by our friends at another congregation where I am also a member and attend services on Monday and Thursday mornings if I might be able to deliver the sermon this Shabbat since both of their rabbis are self-quarantined; of course, I said yes. It gives me satisfaction to know that the members of my congregation will be able to carry on (pun intended) without my presence this Shabbat, and I am grateful to be able to help out others in the community.
None of knows exactly where this pandemic will lead. Social distancing makes us uncomfortable–especially in the Jewish community. While we may not be able to be physically close to each other, this is a time to draw close and help each other out. Make sure to reach out to friends and family who are stuck at home. If you are healthy and not at risk, find out how you can help.
I pray that this pandemic will not be as serious as the worst predictions. We cannot know fully what the impact will be. As Rabbi Harold Kushner suggested, though, what we can do is be there for each. Coronavirus makes this complicated, but the last thing we need right now is to cut ourselves off from each other.
Wishing you all a peaceful and healthful Shabbat!