Much of Judaism relies on routine, community and connection. However, amidst recent events that require social distancing—maintaining a physical distance from those around you in order to protect their health and yours—it can be difficult to continue our activities within the Jewish community.
Social gatherings of more than 25 people are banned in Massachusetts due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, which means Shabbat services and community activities are no longer viable. But these precautions do not mean the complete destruction of the Jewish routine. They just necessitate restructuring. Here are some ideas for practicing Judaism within your home during this difficult time.
Celebrate Shabbat at home. If this is already something you do every week, awesome! Shabbat is a beacon of rest and calm during the best of times and implementing this routine can bring that calm from the synagogue into your home. You can also tune in to remote Reform Shabbat services from synagogues all over the country using ReformJudaism.org’s “Find a Congregation.” Remote services cut down on contact with other people, but still allow us to pray with others.
Donate money, if you can. Tzedakah is an important part of living a full Jewish life. If you’re able, donate money to food banks such as The Greater Boston Food Bank and Project Bread. Food banks benefit the most from financial donations because they are able to purchase food at much lower prices and thus provide help to more people. There are also relief funds like the CJP Coronavirus Emergency Fund to support community members facing hardship as a result of this pandemic.
Donate blood, if you can. There’s a national blood shortage and, if you are able to, donating blood can help bolster hospitals that are operating at max capacity. The Red Cross has a tool that will help find a blood donation location near you. Before you make an appointment, check out their eligibility requirements.
Offer support. If you have elderly relatives or friends in Boston, check up on them via phone or video calling. If you have immunocompromised friends or friends with children, offer to run errands and get essential things for them. Keep an eye on the people in your life and congregation. During a pandemic, uncertainty and misinformation run rampant, and it’s important to remember that even though we are physically apart, we are still a community. Keep yourself safe in the process.
Wash your hands. We all know Jewish people love their hand-washing! It’s ritual, it’s healthy and it’s imperative. When you wash your hands, remember that it’s not only Jewish tradition, but a direct action in favor of public health. There’s an abundance of proper hand-washing charts online, as well as songs you can sing to make sure you’re washing your hands for long enough. A personal favorite of mine is the chorus to Toto’s “Africa” (you can sing it twice if you want to be extra safe!).
Read. You can check out audiobooks and e-books from your local library and have them delivered right to your device. You can read out loud, read to yourself and peruse Jewish humor and theory. There’s no shortage of Jewish materials to read, and I can’t be the only person with a shelf full of great books gathering dust!
Remember, combating illness and supporting public health is a community effort. One person hoarding hand sanitizer is not going to stop COVID-19. We all need to step up and provide support to our community members, and we can do so from our own homes.