A Yom Kippur like none other; Covid 2020

Picture taken by Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein in honor of Yom Kippur 2020.

Remembering will never be this easy again, I assume. When there is trauma, fear of the unknown, anxiety, uncertainty, or any combination of an array of emotions, memory is initiated with gusto and there is no fear of any details being forgotten…or is there?

Each year, I remember each of my parents and inlaws. I remember their values and their sense of purpose in their lives. I remember what they brought to each of our lives. I remember them sharing their hopes and their dreams, their inspirations and their plans to build their legacies through us. But as each year passes, those memories grow dimmer. Questions poke out with their annoyances; did that actually happen or did you want or not want that to happen? What were you experiencing then? What did you want to transpire?

But this year,  Covid 2020, how can I not remember my thoughts, my speech, and my actions? Standing outside the outdoor tent at the retired Demarest Farms, unless the temperature drops too low for me to tolerate the drop, listening to the chords of Kol Nidrei waft towards and upwards, Heaven bound and wanting to drop to the ground, consoling my aching soul for the hundred of thousands of souls lost to Covid, already. The promise of the doubling of more souls to be lost before year’s end. There has been too much exaggerated and intensified emotion, to date. Growing accustomed to being emotionally laden and encumbered. Wondering will I ever take back my shorn off filter? How have emotions become so, inessential, dispensable and disposable? I cast them off like a used pair of latex gloves or throw a way mask. But there is a loop to my emotions and some emotions have returned, not just once or twice, but stay looped. Down deep, I am aching and scared for what’s to come and what hasn’t happened, as of yet.

I pray but I feel more insecure than ever before. Do I have the right to ask for a healthy life when so many others have perished?

But then I remember what my parents and my in laws stood for. I am then able to continue on with my Yizkor thoughts for my Yom Kippur prayers.

My father, Shmuel Yudl ben Osher Ziml Hacohen z”l, the first one to die, in April 1982, longed for life, cherished his Jewish life. He believed in embracing life and smashing that tennis ball in return, in a volley perhaps, back across the net with gusto.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 – I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, [that] I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursingtherefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.

My mother in law, Mary Lou Goldstein, was next to pass on. She lived, thanks to radiation treatment, until Nov. 2006, in time to attend Shira’s bat mitzvah in body, if not in “soul”( It seemed that she was there in body only at that point. It was heartbreaking). She embraced her Judaism. She was quite meticulous about dotting every I and striking every T.  She worked long and hard hours for the Women’s Campaign in Bergen County for the Jewish Federation. She carried herself with quiet grace and composure as a proud Classical Reform Jew.

Exodus 19:6
and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

Numbers 11:31

Now there went forth a wind from the Lord and it brought quail from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp and about two cubits deep on the surface of the ground.

Psalm 135:7
He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries

Job 28:25
“When He imparted weight to the wind
And meted out the waters by measure,

My father in law, Laurence Goldstein, Sr.  was next to go. He passed on in May 2008. He was raised as a Conservative Jew but saw such innovation, creativity and expansiveness in Reform Judaism, that he embraced it with relish. He and my mother in law became stalwarts of Temple Emeth in Teaneck. They watched as their generation was replaced and replenished by the incoming Progressive Reform Jews. Adapting with the changing times was a must for both.

Amos 4:13
For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind
And declares to man what are His thoughts,
He who makes dawn into darkness
And treads on the high places of the earth,
The Lord God of hosts is His name.

My mother, Mindl Devorah bat Shlomo and Genendl  z”l, was the last of that generation to depart this world. She breathed her last in Jan. 2014.  Her second granddaughter had just married. Her first grandchild was on the way here. Her legacy was settling in place. But the pain of her loss was so fresh and so present.

“She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong” Proverbs; v. 17. Deuteronomy 3:18 – And I commanded you at that time, saying, Jehovah your God hath given you this land to possess it: ye shall pass over armed before your brethren the children of Israel, all the men of valor

Proverbs 31:28-29

28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

29“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

My father z”l had taught that time is the best healer. Yes, images fade. Feelings blur. Memories become hazy and distant.

But what has become clearer and I would surmise, remain in my memory for a very long time, will be this Yom Kippur 2020. How so? Because of the emotional response to Yom Kippur 2020 as I bend to light the Yahrzeit candles once again, but as if it is for the very first time, Covid time.

I can hear the voices of the past calling me.’Kol Nidrei, v’esarei…” as if I am hearing them for the very first time.


Gmar Hatima Tovah,

Rabbi Claire Ginsburg Goldstein

the teddy bear Rabbi

Covid 2020

About the Author
Rabbi Claire conceived of the concept Bears from Bergenfield upon a routine check of the Israeli staff at camp SLC August of 2001. She realized that the world needed to wake up and become aware of the suffering the Israelis were enduring as the Palestinians continued their intifada against them. After 18 years and 195,000 teddy bears amassed and redistributed, Rabbi Claire is searching for more public platforms to proliferate and advance her message, that Jewish lives matter, especially with a teddy bear. Rabbi Claire lives in Bergen County with her husband of 38 years, Larry, and their 4 children, Sam, Shira, Seth, and Sarah Rose, plus their incoming son-in-law Ivan. For further information of how to get involved with this endearing project, contact her at lgcg98@aol.com.
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