This is Not Just Hitting the Elderly: Underestimating what This Is Doing to Our Youth

Empty Computer Room

My daughter stood at the top of the stairs crying. I asked her what was wrong and she simply said, “I don’t want to be here.” She loves us, but she is supposed to be enjoying her college year on campus with friends, exploring new opportunities, meeting people and expanding her mind. Instead she is cooped up in this house with mom and dad–not just for a few days, but until…who knows?

I told her that she is right to feel as she does. This is not fair. She is being robbed of a formative experience. I look back on my college years as transformational and fun. Those days at Kalamazoo College made me who I am and pointed me in the direction of service to others. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have that taken away–even if only for a few months. She has every right to be upset now.

I reminded her that eventually a new normal will settle in. We have no choice for the time being. I told her that this whole thing reminds me a little of Anne Frank (with obvious major differences); she was a young girl who found herself suddenly cut off from the outside world and her friends. We have the advantage that we are still able to connect to the outside world…but what we share is a sense that there is something very dangerous (and possibly lethal) lurking outside. Anne never lost her spirit; she found ways to preserve her humanity in the midst of great inhumanity. Even so, there can be little doubt that this COVID-19 experience may be traumatizing for our children–especially if the quarantines drag on for weeks and weeks (which to young ones seem like years). No one is really talking about that–the aftercare that will be necessary.

We are all muddling our way through this and I hope that we can find the best in others and in ourselves through it all. When Anne was alive, we saw the worst of humanity and the best of humanity. The choice is ours. It is up to us how we want to face this crisis. We decide how we treat each other. We decide how we treat ourselves. We also decide how to heal ourselves and those most traumatized. Many fear that the lead-up to the crisis was left to chance rather than careful planning; let’s not allow the aftermath to be left to chance. The stakes are too high. Our youth are counting on us.

Thought for Shabbat – Coronavirus Edition

Community Can Be Beautiful

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!