Twelve Zooms and Counting  (February 2021 KOL)

As I write this article, I am halfway through the week and I have already had twelve Zoom meetings (including one with Rabbi Widzer).  For most of my life, the verb “to zoom” evoked images of speeding cars or little children playing with toy ones.  But, our pandemic lives have given rise to a new kind of Zoom that has revolutionized the world in general, and the Jewish world in particular.  And truthfully, I don’t see us going back.

Serving on many boards and committees, mentoring rabbis all over the world, running a family foundation, praying on Shabbat, connecting with family and friends in good times and sad, and counseling those in need has been possible during this pandemic thanks to the miracle of Zoom.  Just today, I can be in Israel and NY from my home in Los Angeles for events that I would not have been able to attend otherwise.  I have been to Israel multiple times this week via Zoom, even as I yearn to be there on her sacred soil.  I don’t have to explain it to you.  You are living it every day as you work, go to school, and conduct your lives and business online.

The revolution and explosion of Jewish online Zoom and webinar learning in the last year has transformed us as a Jewish community in a myriad of positive ways.  I have been able to study with some of the greatest thought leaders of Judaism in the past few weeks and the past year. I still have fond memories of the classes I taught weekly for three months for TBS, when the pandemic stay-at-home began. Just yesterday, I was asked to speak in the spring for Princeton about what is happening in religion as a result of this year’s events.  This is a transformative moment in Jewish history, even as we struggle with the tragedy of a pandemic, the insanity of an insurrection laced with anti-Semitism, and systemic inequality wherever we turn.

I am so proud of our Reform Movement, as we have accepted the challenge of stay-at-home Jews by providing exceptional content. If you want to attend a three-part series (February/March/April) on Judaism and Women’s Studies, you can register by clicking HERE. The course description can be found HERE. Through HUC Connect, there is a wealth of online learning and archived learning at your fingertips for free, just for the asking. The webinars from the American Jewish Archives (click HERE) have been phenomenal. I have loved the classes I have taken with leading scholars in their fields. Two weeks ago, I took a class taught by two of my colleagues – one speaking from Jerusalem and the other from New York. They taught and joked as if they were together in the same room.

Gary and I attended the Minyan Makers anniversary a few weeks ago.  It meant getting up at 5:30 am PT, which is clearly not my favorite hour, especially in retirement, but it was only possible with the new technology that is able to connect us wherever we might be.  I can attend services via Livestream or Zoom at our congregation in Jerusalem, or watch them at my convenience as they have been recorded.  In our isolation, the world has gotten smaller, and our ability to connect has grown exponentially.

And with it all, belonging to a synagogue has never been more important.  We are members of eight synagogues and will most likely be joining one or two more in the coming year.  No matter how much is out there and how many places we can visit, there is no place like home.  In sickness and death, when you are alone or lonely, as we all need to feel that we are supporting the Jewish future, the synagogue continues to be the institution of Jewish survival.  And not only am I glad that I have rabbis who care about me and check in on me, I have seen how many of my colleagues have needed their communities as they have gone through personal loss and tragedy this year.

The Jewish world has adapted with flexibility and met the challenge of embracing the new, while struggling to continue with the old.  How lucky TBS is to have Rabbi Widzer and Miles Roger right now.  Neither have ever prayed with our congregation in our sanctuary or seen what Tuesday and Sunday religious school has looked like for the past 35 years.  Thankfully, they have come into our community with skill and determination to keep us together, learning, connected, and thriving, just awaiting the new normal that will be TBS after this Covid nightmare is mitigated.

Not all the changes of the past year have been negative ones.  We are Zooming into 2021.  May it be a year where we sustain the Judaism and Jewish community that has always been there for us and encourage others to do the same.  I also encourage you to reach out to take advantage of the wonderful Jewish learning that is just a click away on your keyboard, as you can engage in rich Jewish learning and growing from the comfort of your home.

By: Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, Founding Rabbi Emerita, TBS