Last month, when I started my column by asking if spring would ever be the same, I had no way of knowing what that question would come to mean.
When we started to put together last month’s paper, we were watching a health crisis develop on the other side of the country, in Washington state. And we were advised to start taking precautions here.
But Purim was upon us, and there was a parade and celebration (see page 20). I attended a lecture at Temple Shalom, in Middletown, where I noticed that some people shook hands while others did not. Hand sanitizer was on all the tables.
Now, as I look at the photos of both events, they seem like years ago, not just a few weeks.
Life has changed radically for all of us.
As I often do, I am writing this column from my home office. But this time, it’s not by choice.
Our synagogues and other institutions are closed. We are not holding community events and programs. Our normally robust pre-Pesach calendar is now filled with cancellations. In fact, you’ll notice that this issue has no calendar, because we had no programming to announce.
But while we are down, we are not out.
Virtual programming is alive, well and robust. In fact, it’s amazing to see some of the programming that is now connecting us online.
Take a look at just some of what we have found, in our story on page 4. From tot Shabbat to daily minyanim and study groups of all types, there is something online for everyone at every stage of life. A friend described this as taking care of her soul. This spiritual care is more accessible than ever to more people than ever.
And there are other programs online. In our Jewish community, I’ve found health and fitness programs, social groups sponsored by synagogues, counseling and meetup opportunities. And the list goes on.
I plan to sample many of these programs while trying to connect with others in the outside world. And I hope you do, too.
But there’s a problem with many of these virtual events – not enough people know about them. Please use our online calendar to promote events you enjoy so more of us can worship, celebrate, exercise and gather together … from our homes.
My book group met on Zoom last week. We each brought our own cup of tea, reconnected and managed a good discussion. We’ve committed to making weekly connections online beyond our regular monthly meetings.
My family has also started a weekly family dinner via Zoom. Everyone still talks at once, so the only change is the venue. Well, that’s not the only change, but I’m trying to adapt. We are now talking about a virtual seder. That’s still to be determined.
Here at Jewish Rhode Island, we are trying our best to keep up with the rapid changes of a stay-at-home community. Our website, Jewishrhody.org, is updated regularly with headlines and stories locally and from around the world related to the coronavirus. We are trying to bring you the stories you might not see anywhere else, from our community and from JTA’s national and world coverage. Visit our site often to stay on top of what’s happening.
Putting together this paper reminds me that there was life before this virus and there will be life after. We have a couple of profiles of interesting people in our community in this issue. And we are already planning for our next issue, which is usually one of our most popular: our Pets issue. We hope that, while you are inside with your favorite companions, or outside for a walk, you will snap a photo of Fluffy or Fido and send it to us. Regardless of whether we are working from home or our office, we will have our usual pages of pets next month.
Send those pet photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them online at Jewishrhody.org. If you must use regular mail, please send your photos to Jewish Rhode Island, 401 Elmgrove Ave., Providence, RI 02906. But this year, email is preferable.
We always look forward to seeing your pet photos, and right now, it’s extra-important to bring smiles to our readers.
This month also marks the start of our annual Patron Campaign. If you like what you read in the paper and online, we hope you will donate to keep a robust Jewish voice in greater Rhode Island. We depend on readers like you to help us continue to be the voice of our Jewish community. We need your help and support more than ever this year.
For now, I hope to see you online at one of the great programs available to all of us!
And, finally, my thanks to everyone who has helped to get this paper published during these extraordinary times.