Shabbat Guide 12/18/20 by Micah Symons
I didn’t fast for Yom Kippur this year.
I won’t have the opportunity to sit in a sukkah this year.
I’m probably not going to attend services this year.
And that’s okay.
If the past six months dealing with COVID-19 have taught us anything, it’s that no plans are set in stone. The universe has a funny way of pulling the rug out from beneath us. In isolation from friends and extended family, we’ve experienced the polar extremes of sweet and sour.
Comfort and pain.
Especially nowadays, it’s important to remember there’s no right way to express your Judaism.
On Yom Kippur, we fast to practice self-denial and look inward. I’ve had half a year during this pandemic to get in touch with my spirituality and reflect on my life, so this tradition isn’t cutting it for me. In a way, we’ve been fasting from our regular lives, and we feel that discomfort with every Zoom Shabbat dinner and mask-donned grocery store run.
The day we swing open our doors and reconvene will be the most fulfilling “break fast” of our generation, but until then, we’re focusing on the emptiness in our spirits.
Similarly, with the pandemic, there’s no way I feel comfortable stepping foot into a sukkah, a space notorious for being small and in close proximity to people. Sure, it’s open-air, but I’m not removing my mask to take a bite of challah.
The rationale for visiting a sukkah is to remind us of escaping Egypt and the temporary shelters we donned as we thanked God for freeing us. In 2020, this reminds me of the people experiencing homelessness at Camp Teddy on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
Rather than step in a sukkah, I can donate supplies and money to support those who, like the Israelites in the book of Exodus, are seeking shelter in the wilderness and protection from a system that unfairly targeted them.
Like I said, this pandemic has offered all of us quiet time to reflect and get in touch with ourselves. This level of spirituality is unprecedented, and we cannot drown out our feelings and prayers with the bustle of everyday life.
If Jewish traditions fulfill you, that’s wonderful. I hope you find solace in your Yom Kippur fast or prayer in your sukkah. Me? COVID-19 has shown me the inherent Jewish values hiding in the world.
Find those values, and hold onto them. Wherever your heart takes you is a valid expression of Judaism.
51 years feels like an eternity.
In 1969, astronauts landed on the moon and the earliest version of the Internet popped up. For queer folks and allies during June, we also remember the Stonewall Riots, the linchpin of the modern-day LGBTQ Rights movement arguably began.
Before the Stonewall Riots, actions coded as queer were criminal offenses; if your clothes or demeanor were seen as too different from the typical Christian heterosexual person, you would be arrested. Being outed as queer could get you fired. By the end of the 1960s, several covert gay/lesbian clubs popped up around the country. The police routinely raided and arrested patrons of underground gay bars, and LGBTQ people had had enough.
On the night of June 28th, 1969, undercover cops tried to raid the Stonewall Inn, but those in the bar – especially trans people of color – refused to go. More police came, and a riot broke out. Some say bricks were thrown, others say drink glasses and rocks, but this was the breaking point. A mob of queer people shouted “gay power” and sang, causing the world to wake up and look towards this small bar in the middle of New York’s Greenwich Village.
That was an extremely shortened version of the full story (I’m reading Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman). It was a time of unrest, where the public wasn’t on the side of queer people, and things had to get loud and uncomfortable for change to come.
As a gay man, I’m in awe of what previous generations had to go through to be accepted and heard. And 51 years later, the world is waking up again, this time to police brutality and racial injustice.
No one has the luxury to remain silent anymore. It is our responsibility to stand up and support these protests calling for fair treatment and institutional change.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder. Just this week, Merriam-Webster is amending their definition of racism to better reflect the systemic issues faced by people of color. The tides are turning, and Jews/LGBTQ people know the feeling of the world against them and the need to speak up.
In the 1960s, Rabbi Abraham Heschel stood with MLK and other Civil Rights leaders. He famously said, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” Jews remember our past, so it’s troubling to see history repeating.
To the queer folks reading this, happy Pride Month. Let us remember the riot 51 years ago that changed the world forever, and support the ones going on now.
History will remember.
Written by yours truly,
Ross Weisman, Engagement Associate at Tribe 12
Interested in have virtual coffee with Ross? Set up a time like right now!
Social distancing and self-quarantining are new phrases to a lot of us, and this feels unprecedented. Tribe 12 –– among many of you –– are working remotely, so we’re all adjusting to a new reality for the next month or so.
Regardless of your situation, self-care is more important than ever! In Judaism, Shabbat can be lighting candles and turning off your computer, but it can be any activity that forces you to be present (check out this great guide from Hey Alma)!
Here are some of the ways we’re being kind to ourselves. Reach out, and let us know what you’re doing!
One of the hardest things about being at home all the time is being at home all the time. It’s easy to slip into a routine of sitting on the couch to watch TV or lounging on your laptop all day. The CDC recommends keeping a distance of six feet from other people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go outside and take a walk. Personally, I throw on some headphones and listen to a podcast while wandering my now-emptier neighborhood. If going outside isn’t an option, or you don’t want to interact with possibly infected people, many gyms and fitness centers are live-streaming workouts for free! Planet Fitness is doing this daily!
Go on virtual dates
If you have a smartphone or access to a Facebook account, video chatting with friends and family is easier than ever. When you’re in an isolating situation like COVID-19, it’s amazing what a little chit-chatting can do. I’m lucky to have four roommates, so I have people I can still see and interact with every day. If you have a friend you’re thinking of, let them know it! If you know someone immunocompromised or at high risk, give them a call! It’s so easy to put the onus on others and wait for calls to come in. Trust me; taking that first step is beneficial for everyone.
If you read this caption and thought I meant romantic dates, that’s good too! Reach out to our matchmaker Danielle for tips. If anything, working on conversation skills now can make the eventually meet up in person ever better!
Have a routine
As I’m writing this, it’s nearly 11am; my bed isn’t made, and I haven’t showered yet. Parenting guides suggest keeping a schedule for kids, but you’re no different! Humans thrive on going through the motions and consistency –– this can explain why many of us are struggling to adjust to this social distancing.
Even if you have nowhere to be, take the time to get dressed and feel like yourself. If you always have a cup of coffee before going on a walk in the morning, keep it up! Having a sense of normalcy will keep you feeling on time of things and will lead an example to those around you.
We’re all gonna be a bit more relaxed than usual. You can accept that while not letting your typical schedule pass you by.
Help those in need
As a Jewish community, we strive to give a hand to those in need. Keep a watchful eye on older folks and ones with weakened immune systems. If you’re feeling well, go grocery shopping on someone’s behalf and help them maintain a routine. Check on your neighbors, and share the food you stockpiled that’ll last until September 2022. In times of crisis, humans come together. No matter how dire things may feel, we persevere as a community. Call food banks, shelters, pantries, and nonprofits that support vulnerable populations. They are overwhelmed at this point, and anything you can do is welcome. Some organizations we love and want to support are KleinLife, Mitzvah Food Program, and MANNA.
Stay safe, everyone! Take time to process, but don’t let things get in the way of your well-being and happiness. We’re here for you at Tribe 12.
Ross Weisman: Engagement Associate