Coping with Coronavirus – A Letter to Our Community

Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig
Dear WHC Family,
I hope you are safe and well and are honoring the recommendations to stay home. I’ve been at Washington Hebrew for 34 years. In that time, we have lived through 9/11, the sniper attacks, anthrax threats, and more, but we kept our doors open. 
Sure, we have had to cancel some events because of weather, but we did our best to keep things going. I remember “snowmaggedon,” when a family could not get to Temple for their child’s b’nei mitzvah. I navigated the mounds of snow, drove to Temple, and picked up a Torah, so the child could become a b’nei mitzvah at the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center, which was close to their house.
But this is not a snow day, and we don’t know when it will end or what else will change. Like you, I am experiencing events that I never thought would happen. My daughter was instructed to pack up her dorm room and go home for the rest of the semester. I am delighted to have an opportunity to spend this unplanned time with Eve, but my heart breaks for all she is losing because of this change.
We know how to come together as a community to support one another in times of need, but the novel coronavirus has put us in uncharted territory. We have been asked – individually – to separate ourselves from our communities so we can – as a nation – slow the tide of this pandemic. We have been told not to gather in each other’s homes to share a meal of comfort, meet to pack meals for the hungry, or come to Temple to pray as a community.  These are difficult times, and we can and will be scared of the unknown, but there is also an opportunity to bring hope and promise to the future.
From the book of Genesis onward, ours is a story of one family becoming a nation. We have learned through trials and tribulations the power we can have when individuals act as one. Together, we have turned injustice to justice; we have taken care of the widow, the orphan, the stranger among us; we have fed the hungry and clothed the naked. 
How we choose to act in the coming weeks – and maybe months – can have an enormous impact on the destiny of our nation and save lives! Our actions can either tear apart the fabric of this global human family or bind us together to help one another. Distancing ourselves physically does not mean we have to break our connection.
Our WHC clergy, educators, and leadership are putting together a schedule of experiences that will help you connect, virtually, to your WHC family – our sacred community – for as long as we remain closed. Look for an email tomorrow with information about ways you can learn, connect in prayer and moments of spiritual reflection, and help those in need.
Together, we will find new ways to continue to fulfill our moral and social responsibility to repair the world while we take care of our own families. We will find ways to stay connected and draw closer to our community while we distance ourselves physically for protection.
We will meet this new challenge as we have for all our days with creativity and with faith, not fear, to help build a better tomorrow.
The words of Micah 6:8 are written not only above the entry to our building but even more into our collective history – the very DNA of our WHC community: “God has shown you what is good. And what God does require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Let us walk into a new day with the power of faith over fear, the power of our united efforts to bring hope, healing, and promise to all.
May God give us the courage to be the best of ourselves in the days and weeks to come so we may know how powerful we can be when we stand and act as one!
Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig