As we have reveled in the summer-like weather of this extraordinary spring, we face, on the one hand, a looming overload of our health system as COVID variants lead to an especially worrisome wave, while, on the other hand, we enjoy a sense of huge optimism every time we see another friend’s vaccination selfie. There is a race between the spread of the virus and the distribution of the vaccine.
There will be time to reflect on the responses of governments around the world, but, for now, we thank again the medical professionals and other frontline workers, which in the circumstances includes retail and restaurant workers and anyone whose position puts them in front of the public so that the rest of us can live with comparative ease.
We are now in the second round of annual events held virtually. We have celebrated Passover with online seders two years in a row and likewise have marked simchas and solemn occasions through our devices. This is becoming something close to routine.
The past couple of weeks have been especially packed with virtual community events. It is remarkable how meaningful and moving ceremonies like Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) can be even when mediated through technology. Joyous occasions like Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) were different but delightful.
On Sunday, Jewish Family Services held a virtual grand opening and tour of their new food hub, dubbed the Kitchen, a centre for sustainable food, education and community-building around this most central of human necessities. (See story next issue.)
What was inspiring about the JFS event, in addition to the project itself, is the resolve and optimism demonstrated by the very act of launching the facility in the midst of a pandemic. It is a bit of wonderful audacity, or chutzpah, to start a new initiative like the Kitchen and to see it through to a physical opening, despite the challenges thrown at the organization by COVID.
Of course, there are countless similar examples, in our community and others, of people doggedly pursuing great causes in the face of the crisis we are in. There is the small miracle that this pandemic hit us at a time when we have the technology to see and talk to people worldwide in real time. But the technology is only as good as the people operating it. On a dime, schools, synagogues, arts and cultural institutions, education and advocacy agencies, as well as families, adapted as best they could under sometimes nearly impossible circumstances. The quality of so many of these efforts has been remarkable.
What makes things like the Kitchen so significant is that it was not an existing program that went virtual, but a fresh concept in community well-being that was envisioned and created. Sunday’s Chanukat Habayit was the culmination of that foundational work and the beginning of what should be decades of programs and services.
If there were a model of behaviour to inspire clients of Jewish Family Services, and all of us, that demonstration of resilience and determination in times of difficulty is an ideal one.