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Rabbi's Week In Review- May 19, 2020

05/19/2020 06:46:05 PM


On Monday morning, NPR’s Morning Edition ran a heartwarming story. Israel, as a means of quarantining, has opened up “coronavirus hotels.” Most of these hotels have essentially been divided by like people — i.e., ultra-Orthodox Jews with other ultra-Orthodox Jews.  

However, early on, one of these coronavirus hotels was filled by a much more diverse group.  Ultra-Orthodox Jews, along with more secularized Jews, along with Muslims. After an initial period of self-segregation, the groups began to mingle and connect. A Muslim woman dined with and connected with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish couple.

A culminating event at the hotel was the Passover seder. Originally, a wall had been erected by the hotel in order to accommodate a more ritually traditional seder for the ultra-Orthodox residents, separate from the other residents. Yet, when it came time for the seder, residents (including ultra-Orthodox residents) took down the wall in the room, and 180 people celebrated Passover together. Included in that group of 180 people were the Muslim residents of the hotel.

I think that, in many ways, this story reflects the more positive response to the pandemic crisis. Last week, the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City (RA), after thoughtful deliberation, released a policy statement on COVID-19 and initial reopening actions.  Notwithstanding denominational differences and the different restrictions attendant to those differences, the RA was able to speak as one voice with the goal of protecting the health and lives of our communities — our synagogue communities; the Greater Kansas City Jewish community; and our broader city, state, national and world communities.

The response to the coronavirus pandemic can be divided into two groups. One group seeks to divide us. They place greater value on some human lives than others (particularly people of color); seek to find someone to blame for the pandemic rather than assume responsibility to address the health and economic hardship created by the pandemic; and tout individual conduct, regardless of the harm resulting from that conduct, over the greater good for everyone in our community.

The other group places the community ahead of the individual. This group finds avenues for cooperative action; attempts to address and solve problems rather than finding out who to blame; and believe that shared sacrifice and the welfare of everyone, all created in G-d’s Image, are paramount.

I take solace in and hope for the future through the efforts of the latter group. This includes my colleagues in the RA. Judaism rests on a foundation of communal covenant; that our relationship with G-d is reliant upon our concern for the welfare of all. May this Jewish value of communal concern (certainly not limited to Jews) be our guide going forward — leading to a future of healthy lives and economic well-being.

Wed, November 25 2020 9 Kislev 5781