As adapted from a letter to the Midway Jewish Center, Syosset New York.
Last week, I was in a “meeting” with some of the leading professionals in the Jewish communal world about the organizational response to the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the most respected and probably well-known figures in the group said he had told his staff he was running at about a three out of ten and that was the best he was going to be able to muster for a bit. I thought that was really insightful and in many ways liberating way of thinking about our situation. A three and that is kind of it and let’s accept that. I would imagine that his three is likely more like my nine but life is relative. And so it is. Most of our lives have all been reduced down to the best we can do and that in some cases we find so many of us are doing extraordinarily wonderful things operating at a reduced capacity.
We are managing work, financial distress, family, isolation, fear, and this disorienting uncertainty. I have spoken to so many of you as we all struggle through this wholly unnatural circumstance. And what I have come to believe is that three might be it. This is not natural, and we CAN be great at times—but most of the time we just can’t be great—we might not even be able to be good. But rest assured we are all doing the best we can, and we should allow ourselves and those around us to be a three. I can tell you that personally, this situation has reduced my own capacity to be as attentive, patient, responsive, and focused as I would like to be—I have no doubt those around me will attest to that—but I am trying to come to terms with reality.
Certainly, we need to give ourselves permission to fall short and we also must give those around us that same permission. The Zoom meeting might not go off without a hitch, the school experience might not be quite what we had expected, someone from the shul might not get back to you as quickly as you had hoped, our kids might need more attention than they normally do, and you might be a little less patient with all of it—but you, me, our kids, our teachers, our family, our friends, and our co-workers are likely doing the best we can. And the best we can just might be a three.
Our friends and family who are health care workers and first responders are performing miracles of strength, compassion, resilience, and selflessness—but they are not functioning at full capacity either; no one is. It is because we recognize that everyone’s capacity is limited under these conditions that we are all in awe of what they do every day. Those health care workers and first responders deserve our gratitude, admiration, love, and support.
MJC, along with Young Israel of Plainview and Plainview Jewish Center, raised over $3,000 dollars in less than 24 hours to feed health care workers kosher food at our local hospitals. That is an amazing feat, but I promise that while putting it together with my counterpart at Young Israel, I was most certainly functioning at a 3, at best. But the amazing thing about it was that our collective threes raised $3,000 in less than 24 hours. That money will allow our health care heroes to be able to eat kosher food Sunday night and for many days and nights to come. So three might not be what we all strive for but together all of our threes might end up adding up to a perfect ten.