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Pondering Loss in the Age of COVID-19

We are thrilled to welcome Jane Blumenstein, LMSW, as our new social worker and to welcome her to BJ.

Typically, we joyfully usher in the new year and then turn inward to conduct a personal inventory in anticipation of Yom Kippur. We then emerge with tremendous relief towards Z’man Simhateinu (a time of our joy) during Sukkot. Finally, we reach the pinnacle of our celebration, Simhat Torah. The cycle of the year, the normal cycle, I should say, provides us with the opportunity to process the time passing in predictable ways that feel familiar. Part of the beauty of the rituals we have grown accustomed to is the way they serve to bring us to moments of reflection in an almost Pavlovian way. The shofar is blown, the soul will quiet, the ark opens, my heart is aflutter with expectation of the beauty of the sparkling Torah adornments, I take out the kiddush cup, and I think of my childhood family table.

The holiday season will look and feel like none other we have ever experienced in our lifetimes. We are socially distanced from our families and friends, and our prayer services are taking place virtually. How can we reasonably enter into this season when so many of the normal cues we expect are missing? Is it possible to compartmentalize the loss, the feelings of deprivation, and to embrace the simha? For each of us, this conundrum will look different and will depend on many factors. What were the challenges we faced and protective factors in our lives going into the pandemic? How have we been able to cultivate additional tools while being socially distanced? How much deprivation have we experienced and how are we able to balance that with new sources of strength? The support of community is no doubt a major protective factor and a source of love, strength, and healing. It’s a soft place to land, share, and reflect.

Though I have just begun my connection to BJ through their partnership with DOROT, I am quickly becoming aware of the way this community holds its members in a warm and loving embrace, constantly devising new and creative initiatives to address the needs of the community. I feel privileged to be here and look forward to contributing toward the warmth and healing of the BJ community.