Though the Jewish community rose to the occasion in providing remote events during the height of the pandemic, many of us missed the intimacy of entering a synagogue for services.
Whether for holidays or weekly Shabbat services, there is an unmistakable closeness that comes from getting together in person that a lot of remote gatherings have difficulty replicating. This may be partially because a lot of us don’t look directly at everyone’s faces for the duration of a service, or that videoconferencing doesn’t lend itself well to breakaway conversations or socializing in small groups. But there are other rituals, particularly those involving touch and proximity, that are lost when we go remote. Now that some in-person events are beginning again, I spoke to a few Jewish young adults about what they’re looking forward to experiencing again.
Rachel L. mentioned the act of touching a siddur to the Torah and then kissing it. “It may be a while before I’m fully comfortable in an in-person setting,” she said. “But that’s a little thing I didn’t think I would miss.” She, like several others, is also looking forward to singing in a group, rather than at home. “It sounds better,” she said, laughing. “And it’s easier to stay in time in-person, without the lag.”
Esther B. also missed singing: “I didn’t mind attending services remotely, but there’s something strangely peaceful about getting together and maintaining a ritual every week. Shabbat services are a grounding force in my life, and I’m glad I got to keep attending during the pandemic.” Esther went on to talk about the remote Shabbat dinners she hosted, and how, now that her family and friends are getting vaccinated, she’s planning her first in-person event. “We used to get together a little later, after services,” she said. “When we were sheltering in place, a couple of my friends and I would cook similar meals and then eat together over a video call. I’m excited to cook for more than one again!”
When asked about what they were looking forward to, Sam S. immediately said they missed passing a loaf of challah around the table. “It’s so personal,” they said. “I hadn’t seen my parents in a while, and my dad usually bakes a loaf every week. We didn’t really use a knife; we just tore pieces off. When I see them next, that’s something I really missed.”
Communal meals came up a lot in our conversations, which makes sense as many Shabbat dinners were put on hold during the last year-and-a-half. Amidst the countless pieces about restaurant dining, I found it interesting that those I spoke to seemed to miss connecting with their loved ones no matter the setting. “It’s just been really nice to see everyone,” said Rachel. “People I recognized from synagogue, people I haven’t spoken to since everything started. I’m enjoying catching up with acquaintances and those I missed.”