Yonah Bookstein
Alevy Family Rabbi at Pico Shul and Shabbat Tent

Festival of Life at Dodger Stadium

Rabbi Yonah and comedian Zach Zucker, Dodger Stadium Volunteer Coordinator CORE Community Organized Relief Effort (Photo by Moshe Bookstein)

Our redemption from the pandemic

After hearing about what was happening at hospitals and vaccination clinics, I had called a few shul members and donors on Sunday to set up #mitzvacart to immediately provide relief to the staff and volunteers who were understaffed and overworked. 

 We hoped to help lift their spirits and provide care for all the people caring for others. 

 We were grateful that donors stepped up and funded the first week of food deliveries, and our shul members quickly organized and arranged for deliveries to Dodger Stadium and Cedar-Sinai.

A year ago this week we hosted hundreds of people for Shabbat in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival. We could hardly have known that Sundance 2020 was the last major event that we were going to participate in for a very long time. With the pandemic closing down all large gatherings soon thereafter, no one has been able to experience the amazing energy generated by the sea of humanity participating in a music festival, a large sporting event, or a concert. 

When I arrived at Dodger Stadium to help deliver three dozen pizzas and bottled water on behalf of Pico Shul to the staff and volunteers, I was unprepared for what to feel and experience.  

We entered through an employee entrance and were escorted by the site staff driving through mazes of parking cones and long lines of cars and tents covering the massive parking lots. 

We felt like we were arriving backstage at a huge music and camping festival, and everyone was waiting in their cars to be checked by security before going into camping. 

Except instead of everyone waiting to have their cars picked apart by the security teams before they could enjoy a transcendent weekend of music and camping, the thousands of people in line were there to receive a life-saving vaccine.

Zach, one of the volunteer and staff coordinators for CORE  introduced me to the men and women who are now providing life-saving vaccines at this gigantic outdoor clinic. He and some of the main staff are working 18 hour days. On the first day open to the public, they vaccinated 8,000 residents of LA over the age of 65.  

I met Jeff Duck, a senior CORE employee, who during pre-pandemic times worked as a professional bassist. Instead of rocking concert stages around the world, Jeff has been rocking Dodger Stadium for months organizing the logistics of testing tens of thousands of people, and now inoculating them.

 “When are they starting the live music stage?” I asked, jokingly. 

And I was surprised to learn that Jeff had organized live music during the testing phase, and as soon as they have a handle on the vaccination regime, they hope to have a live music stage set up in Dodger Stadium, providing entertainment to those waiting in their cars and the staff. 

 Dodger Stadium has been turned into the Festival of Life. 

We read in Parsha Bo about the Jewish people being redeemed from slavery, and the millions of Israelites and others who left Egypt. 

Seeing the Dodger Stadium vaccination clinic firsthand, I felt I was witnessing our redemption from the bondage of this pandemic. 

The redemption will not happen overnight, as it did for our ancestors in Egypt. 

But like God’s “strong outreached arm” which led us out of Egypt, this redemption requires us to stretch out our arms through the car window.

Subscribe to Rabbi Yonah on Substack. Donate to help #mitzvacart send food to staff and volunteer first responders here.

About the Author
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein is an internationally recognized spiritual leader, who combines a deep commitment to Jewish practice and knowledge and a non-judgmental love for the Jewish people, humanity and the world. He is co-founder and Alevy Family Rabbi in Community Outreach of Pico Shul Alevy Learning Center and Shabbat Tent. Rabbi Yonah is the author of Prayers for Israel, and organizes Tu B'shvat Seders on campuses around the world. Rabbi Yonah is a former Fulbright Fellow, completed his MA at Oxford University, and Rabbinical Ordination at Ohr Somayach Monsey, NY.
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