Danielle V. Minson — Raising the Bar
Living Jewish Values during a Pandemic
I remember that when my Rabbi handed me a copy of the Torah portion from Leviticus that I would chant at my bar mitzvah ceremony, I was appalled. The portion went into detail about when people with certain symptoms must be quarantined. I had two thoughts. First: “What a strange, archaic, and cruel practice it is to quarantine people.” Second: “How could this possibly be relevant to my life?”
That’s the thing about Jewish ideas and values. They have a way of staying relevant. This crisis has changed our world in ways we are only starting to understand. So the Federation’s “How” has to change. But our “Why,” rooted in our Jewish values, endures.
First, protecting health is a timeless, paramount Jewish value. Whenever my father gave me even a small gift, he’d say, “Use it in good health.”
Second, community and collective action are at our core. We cooperate best during crises.
Here is how the Federation applied these values this week:
This week, our new SAFE Facilities Reopen Group put these Jewish values into action. The core team went through thousands of pages of regulations and best practices from Governor DeWine, the CDC, and more, and reduced it all to a 20-page master resource. (We are the first community I know of to have produced a comprehensive resource like this, and we will share it with other Federations nationally this week).
The SAFE Facilities Reopen Group achieved “wall-to-wall” collective action to protect the health of our community. Then the 45 participants; representing every agency, school, and congregation; discussed the guidelines and the risks. We agreed that health comes before rushing back into our facilities.
The group then turned to our community’s emotional health. We agreed that one of the most traumatic impacts of this shutdown is that we can’t mourn together. Once it is safe to gather in large groups again, our community will face a huge, unprecedented backlog of memorials and mourning. Volunteers stepped forward to develop plans to address this deep need together.
Our partner agencies are moving forward as well:
Camp Livingston made the difficult decision to close for the summer. More on this decision made with a heavy heart but putting safety first, here.
Jewish Family Service’s brand new Connect Project helps seniors feel less alone: “It seemed like a perfect synergy of Jewish organizations. My twin six-year-old girls love to do art, and the Connect Project was a perfect way for them to help brighten someone’s day.” Here’s the full story.
Every year Cincinnati Hillel does a big sendoff for their graduating seniors. Sadly, because of the pandemic they can’t; so they started recognizing seniors on social media. Hillel at Miami University just released Mazal Tov Class of 2020!, a beautiful video that includes a shout-out from Miami’s president.
Here is one more Jewish value I believe in: tzedakah. I remember that my grandfather was too restless to sit in shul for more than 15 minutes. But he would always show up to “pledge chai” (an $18 dollar donation). Jewish people are raised to give. Research confirms that we give more than any other religious group in the US.
With the end of our annual campaign approaching fast, I would like to give you the opportunity to help the temporarily hungry, the newly jobless, and those Holocaust survivors suffering increased isolation, or unable to get groceries, due to COVID-19. Every gift matters to that person in our community who is helped.
Thank you for caring, and stay safe.