Getting back to normal

Posted

I spent a beautiful and enriching weekend in Connecticut recently, kvelling as my niece led a full congregation in worship as a Bat Mitzvah.

No matter that Rosie is 15, the rabbi told us. She had become a Bat Mitzvah right on schedule, but chose to wait to read Torah until the whole scattered family could attend and share the day with her. And, as the rabbi explained, leading the service was now part of her being a Jewish adult.

And Rosie did this with poise and grace. We all celebrated with her. And we were as proud as her parents that she kept up with her religious studies despite a pandemic that has shut down so many of our institutions and our life in the past two years.

I have often written about my family. We are a scattered bunch, but we try to come together as often as possible. Throughout the pandemic, we have stayed connected via Sunday night Zoom sessions. But there have been few in-person gathering opportunities in the past few years as COVID-19 shut down travel and celebrations.

My niece, after her long, patient wait, became the reason for our first get-together since 2019. Older relatives, who hadn’t seen one another for two years or more, except on a screen, particularly delighted in spending time together.

It was truly a wonderful weekend. There was talk of career shifts and fond memories and baseball and favorite foods. There was a tour of my sister’s new home. There were Facetime sessions with absent cousins, and lots of long hugs – which we’ve all missed.

The long-awaited get-together got me thinking about how different our lives are now from when my oldest relatives were young. Most grew up living within a few blocks of each other. My grandmother had two brothers and two sisters. They all had children who stayed nearby through the years. For years, my grandmother had large birthday parties that gathered everyone in the same place for at least one night.

In contrast, my generation, the baby boomers, has scattered and many of us, sadly, have fallen out of touch.

But my immediate family is committed to remaining close. And after this most recent gathering, I think we all see the value in holding our family close.

L’dor v’dor – from generation to generation – is a universal Jewish value. Just as the Torah was passed from grandparents to parents to my niece, the Bat Mitzvah, we are passing our traditions, our stories and our values to the family we hold close.

My husband has a different problem. Most of his family lives in Chicago, and they stayed there during the travel restrictions of the past few years.

It’s time, finally, for us to make that trip to Chicago. If COVID has taught us nothing else, it’s taught us the importance of keeping in touch with those who are important to us.

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Pets have always been a big part of my extended family, and this is one of my favorite issues of Jewish Rhode Island because it features a few of our pets and many of yours.

It turns out that having a pet has been a good thing during COVID. Our furry friends have helped keep us calm and feeling connected, and given us a family member to pamper and focus on when the humans in our household had just about had it with the close quarters.

Now, veterinarians are reminding us to remember those same faithful friends as we return to our workplaces: our pets are accustomed to us being at home, and will have to adjust as we return to normalcy, just like the rest of us.

If you like the sense of community that Jewish Rhody brings to you and your entire family (pets included!), please consider a contribution to our annual Patron Campaign. You probably noticed the envelope that fell from your paper as you opened it. That’s a signal that it’s time to consider supporting local Jewish journalism.

COVID has been hard on us all, including your community newspaper. While no one was out and about, the paper was difficult to distribute and many businesses reduced their advertising. We’re trying to get back to normal now, and we hope you’ll help us with your support. We truly appreciate it – and know you will see the benefits in the year to come.

Fran Ostendorf, editor