Facebook Post: March 16, 2021, A Year Later by Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, D.D.
Today is an anniversary, of sorts, for me. From March 16-May 29, 2020, while Virginia was in lockdown last year, I got up every morning and wrote a Facebook Post to offer comfort and perspective to a bewildered and frightened community of friends. Every piece was also posted on our temple website (tbs-online.org) for our members who were not my Facebook friends, and some I shared with my CCAR colleagues, as well.
To care for my TBS community, I came out of retirement and for three months taught a Zoom class every week to 70-100 people. The daily writing and weekly classes changed how I spent my time those first three months of lockdown. It was a gift I gave to “my people” who were in need of caring and a familiar face. It took a great deal of time and energy. I haven’t wanted to go back and read my real-time accounts of what we were going through. Suffice it to say that I still haven’t been in a store, to a doctor’s office, or bought a grocery in person since 3/16/20, and even with my first vaccine, I plan on keeping a low, masked, isolated profile for some time to come. Still living in the moment of this global tragedy, I am not ready to visit its history.
My research for those classes taught me so much that has helped me through this pandemic. My conclusions about the progression of the pandemic, based upon my study of the 1918 pandemic, eerily came to fruition. None of us could have anticipated how religious life would change and adapt. I am so proud of my colleagues of all faiths who adapted with grace and skill, by the grace of God and their brilliance. In the past year, Gary and I have attended services all over the globe.
All travel stopped, but we adapted. Last week, I was “in Israel” four times with colleagues and friends via Zoom. And through the miracle of Zoom children learned, Boards met, and life continued.
And I have continued to send real cards and mail to connect in a tangible way to those who are lonely, sick, grieving, or those who are truly important to me. In my mind, real mail is the hug from afar that makes one feel connected in a way that email just can’t achieve.
One of the Jewish lessons I have learned in my life is the importance of marking time and observing yearly anniversaries. Today, I mark not only the anniversary of going into isolation, but the anniversary of a writing and teaching journey that marked how I began this pandemic.
We each have a history of this past year filled with milestones and moments we recall that enabled us to survive or enabled us to help others get through. We have grieved losses for ourselves and our nation that rocked us to the core. We have lost so much, learned so much, and endured so much. How far we have come. How much we have yet to reclaim.
As one of my favorite prayerbook book quotes guides me each day: “May the assurance of better things to come enable us so to live as to hasten their coming.” That is why I wrote every day for three months last year. That is why I came out of retirement for my people. That is why I ran Savta School this fall. That is why I have tried to do what I can to ease the burdens and the loneliness around my world.