WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
They say New York is the city that never sleeps. Well, from mid-March till very recently, it appears that New York, together with much of the world, has been in a perpetual state of slumber. Non-essential businesses shut down, offices are working remotely, school has become virtual, and all social gatherings have been cancelled. We have never experienced anything like this before. Life looks like something out of a science fiction movie where one needs protective wear to run daily errands so as not to be caught by the threat that is not seen but always lurking. Once we overcome this pandemic and life slowly resumes back to normal, how will we look back and remember these trying times? Did we delve into despair, or did we rise to persona; greatness?
We have asked all our writers and JCC employees what they’ve learned from the pandemic, how they’ve changed, and how they think our community and society will change? Below are their responses
Since we have never faced a crisis like this before, it was not something we were prepared for. It is disheartening to see that so many people in the community did not have enough savings and now need to go on food lines and into local food pantries in order to make ends meet. I will definitely enjoy spending time in the company of people as opposed to on a Zoom conference, and I think this has taught us that everything can change in a moment. I’ve also noticed how families are spending more time together and are taking more outings together. When I went to the parks, I observed so many people relaxing and enjoying with their families, and that is nice.
Shea Rubenstein, Exec. Vice Pres., JCCMP
In this multi-tech world, things are so fast that we are beyond them before we have even started. There is an overall attitude that when we are over this, after when the dust settles, we may just carry on. This is human nature, and maybe it has been put into our DNA so we as can endure and survive even after the worst tragedies thrown our way. However, maybe this time it will be different. I hope that some may change their attitudes and start working together irrespective of their background or status.
In 1918, the Spanish flu resulted in the death of many millions of people, but that did not avert the evils of the 20th century. Hopefully, this time society can take the opportunity to use all the good and knowledge acquired in the last 100 years with a much brighter and wholesome future.
Mendy Rinkoff, CFO, JCCMP
I think society is permanently changed for the better. Most of us have been affected by this pandemic. So many of us have lost loved ones, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Many have lost their jobs, businesses, and means of parnassah. I believe we will be changed for the better. We have learnt about the fragility of life: one day a person is here, the next day he is gone. We have learnt that we have absolutely no control over anything. We’ve learned that money cannot buy you health. This disease did not discriminate between the wealthy and the poor; it mowed down anyone in its path. I learned that our children’s teachers are true heroes and on a personal note, I have tremendous hakaras hatov to the amazing teachers at Lev Bais Yaakov who moved mountains to teach my girls. I never realized how hard they worked. Lastly, we have all learned that health care workers are our true heroes. They have put their own lives on the line to save so many, and I am awed by their dedication and devotion. May we never have to go through something like this again.
Menucha Worcman, Simcha Hall and social services coordinator, JCCMP
In times of crisis, our community unites in overwhelming acts of chessed. We excel at that. We naturally respond to a crisis by looking for opportunities to help others. As beautiful as this is, as much a testimony as it is to the fine character of our community, I already knew this. What I learned from the coronavirus outbreak is the importance of avoiding a crisis from the start. Too much pain was self-inflicted; too many people could have avoided suffering and even death if we all had acted with greater caution (see Moreh Nevuchim 3:12). We cannot blame ourselves in hindsight, but we can change our attitude going forward by taking health warnings more seriously and avoiding dangerous situations more carefully. Even if it was not a Torah commandment, which it is, it would still be common sense. My own unhygienic behavior can cause illness or worse in someone vulnerable. We must change our behavior before causing more damage.
Rabbi Gil Student, Torah columnist
The pandemic brought tragedy on a global scale. The losses touched everyone, yet it also brought the world together as never before against a common threat. Heroes emerged and were thanked en masse by grateful communities. Families spent months together. The streets were empty. It was a grand reset – a time to stop and think about priorities, and to focus on what is truly important. When it is all over, we will hopefully emerge transformed for the better.
Pinchos Shine, columnist
What did I learn from the pandemic? I can’t say that much. I mean, Hashem didn’t send flashing signs or drop pamphlets to tell us why this was happening. So how do we figure out what it means? Well, we look for context. Hashem impacted social interaction – maybe we need to think about how we behave with others. People made Yom Tov at home and weddings in the backyard – maybe we need to think about how we spend the money we have (or don’t have). Many good people were taken away, and who knows what Hashem had planned? The rules made by man in response were so confounding, conflicting, and often arbitrary. G-d’s rules are not like that. The symptoms and manifestation of the disease took so many forms that we couldn’t keep up. There are so many lessons to learn from each of them. The one thing we know for sure, is that we don’t know ANYTHING for sure – except that Hashem is in charge and He’s trying to send us messages. That’s what I’ve been saying for years.
Rabbi Jonathon Gewirtz, Torah columnist
As a “somewhat-more-mature” individual, I discovered a good deal about the inherent kindness of other people – and that we shouldn’t forget that adversity often brings out the best in our fellow men. In particular, we older folks learned very quickly that we were at higher risk than the rest of the population, especially in light of the loss of so many friends and neighbors of the same age as we. Accordingly, our being quarantined had to have been so much more strictly enforced on account of the fearful knowledge of our own vulnerabilities; this meant that we had no choice but to depend on others for the performance of otherwise humdrum tasks, such as shopping and conducting our usual mundane daily affairs. And that’s when we saw that Klal Yisrael stepped up to the plate, as it were, and revived within us the blessed feeling that we were indeed part of a loving, Divinely-inspired organism, each one of us truly an ish echad but at the same time an integral part of the heartbeat of the leiv echad of our Torah-infused nation.
Rabbi Hillel L. Yarmove, Torah columnist
I’ve learned that when we’re placed in a tough spot, we find that we can do amazing things! This pandemic has forced us to be innovative when it comes to doing chessed. We have come up with quick and new ways to provide support (financial or emotional) to family, neighbors, and friends. We have also figured out ways to alleviate the tension and anxiety through simple distractions like being creative with arts and crafts projects with the kids, or Zoom concerts to entertain people of all ages. Hillel Kapnick, music columnist
Early on during the pandemic, someone mentioned to me that people were bombarding R’ Chaim Kanievsky with questions, and he responded by saying “Shav v’al ta’aseh” – sit and don’t do. I wish I had the source to ensure I am repeating this correctly, but this was the message I clung to. Like a lot of people, I like to feel that I’m in control. The pandemic humbled me, but I still tried to plan. How will we pay our bills if my husband’s office was closed? How will I care for my autistic son if he has no school, camp, or therapy? My nights were consumed with questions. “How will I…..?” But every time I felt panicked or anxious, I told myself “Shav v’al ta’aseh.” Now it’s time to stop trying to control everything. I need to sit and not do. I need to trust in Hashem and be patient. I need to let Him make the plans. Yitti Berkovic, columnist
I definitely do more chessed now. I also have more time to cook for older people and deliver food to them.
Chani Grunberger, JCCMP employee
The obvious answer to what we have learned is that if you don’t already know that G-d is in charge of everything no matter if you were healthy or sick, rich or poor, you know now. We are all equal in this pandemic. We all quarantined and people from all walks of life are not spared. G-d is in control and no power or money has any relevance here. I have changed in the sense that I will try to be a better Jew, person, and of course more health conscious. Phil Brach, sales manager