The last 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic have posed a profound challenge to Jewish community life.
The heavy toll felt across our communities and the wider world, not least the leaders and loved ones who lost their lives, must never be forgotten. In addition, restrictions on the ability to meet together, both in our homes and our synagogues, undermined the very basis of Jewish life.
And yet, as communities start to re-adjust to a “new normal”, there are many reasons for optimism about the future of our communities across the Diaspora.
As chairman of the Conference of the European Rabbis (CER), it has been a privilege to witness the response of 700 Rabbinic leaders to the pandemic from across Europe’s mainstream Jewish communities.
Led by R’ Pinchas Goldschmidt, CER Rabbis from Reykjavik to Sofia and everywhere in between have used the unique challenges of the pandemic as an opportunity for new acts of chessed (kindness) and communal service.
We can sometimes take it for granted that community Rabbis are there to consult, console, and comfort in times of hardship, but we should not ignore the remarkable contribution of Rabbis across our communities large and small.
What we have witnessed is nothing short of a redefinition of the Rabbinic responsibilities. Rabbis took on the mantle of an additional emergency service, delivering food and medical supplies to those ill or isolating, giving hope to their communities through online prayer and services, and bringing the light and life of Judaism into people’s homes whilst their synagogues sat empty.
And now that those same synagogues are opening their doors for High Holy Day services, it falls to us to show our gratitude to those Rabbis who have awaited our return. For some, the return to in-person community may not be possible, and ‘hybrid offerings’ of digital and face-to-face engagement are here to stay. But looking towards the future, I have great hope in the full return to our places of worship, and the sound of prayer and song returning to synagogues and community events.
It is my profound hope that many people who may never have stepped into a synagogue or community centre before the pandemic, may now come to realise the beauty and importance of being connected to a Jewish community. CER’s Rabbis have been there for their communities through thick and thin. It is now our turn to show our thanks in the best way possible – by supporting the growth of our synagogues and communities so they not only survive, but thrive!