A Pandemic Year-In-Review: Maybe It Wasn’t All Bad!?

This week marks exactly a year since WHC closed its doors and suspended all in-person programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s safe to say that no one thought things would still be 99% virtual after 365 days.

This year has been hard.  It has been hard for our staff and clergy, and we know it has been hard for all of you.

Yet — we choose to mark this rather solemn benchmark by reflecting about some of the highlights, or silver linings, from the past 12 months.  To do this, we asked each of our clergy to tell us their three favorite moments from the past year.  Here’s what they said:

Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig:

  1. The Small, Pandemic-Friendly Weddings I Officiated – Whether it was outside in the portico of the Willard Hotel with masked folks walking by and applauding or in a Aunt’s backyard with me the bride and groom and a super sized big screen TV with a myriad of faces!
  2. Our Plethora of Virtual Programming – From Isabel Wilkerson’s keynote lecture for Congregational Conversations to High Holy Days to Early Torah from my front porch. I loved watching the number of participants soar!
  3. Our Ability to Pivot and Adapt – Whether it was standing under our tent at JBSC with b’nei mitzvah students or  graveside with our cantors to give our families an in person moment of comfort as we mourn so many tragic losses. I’m proud of how we’ve done our best to be present to those we humbly service.

Honorable Mention: WHC’s clergy, Senior staff, staff, and lay leadership! Their ability to pivot and pivot again and again to meet the needs of our wonderful community is inspiring.

Rabbi Sue Shankman:

  1. Confirmation 2020 – It was wonderful to be able to celebrate our 10th graders and their commitment to honoring their Judaism as expressed through their chosen theme of “Jewish Pride.”
  2. Women of WHC and EmptyNester Author Events – At these popular gatherings, we have engaged in conversations with authors in exploring themes of books ranging from the Holocaust to issues of gender and inequality. Each has been an inspiring opportunity to engage and connect.
  3. WWHC’s Women’s Seder – Our WHC women virtually raised their voices and danced together as we joyously joined in a spiritual preparation for Passover.

Honorable Mention: Evie’s Bat Mitzvah – this moment of joy and pride was certainly a highlight that we feel blessed to have been able to share with our WHC family.

Cantor Susan Bortnick:

  1. Our Shabbat Service of Healing after the Black Lives Matter protests on June 5, 2020 – After a very tough week, this service was inspirational and reminded us that we have strong bonds within the local community based on respect and love for each other.
  2. Our Adult B’nei Mitzvah Service on August 1, 2020 – Watching these incredible individuals fulfill life-long dreams of becoming b’nei mitzvah despite the circumstances was magical.  They brought joy and pride to all who were able to witness this event.
  3. Our Virtual High Holy Day Services – I was proud that we were able to create these services.  They began our year with beauty and majesty.

Rabbi Eliana Fischel

  1. Teaching Understanding Unorthodox — It was so fun to celebrate our virtual medium by exploring this Netflix series in a different lens.
  2. Wednesday Study Group — The ability to come together with a similar group of people every week and discuss how our Jewish tradition can help us navigate this new world is both comforting and exciting.
  3. High Holy Days — We approached the holidays with creativity and innovation. I was so proud of what we produced.

Honorable Mention: Ezra’s Baby Naming – What a blessing to celebrate this simcha with our WHC family! (ok, so that might actually trump everything above!)

Rabbi Aaron Miller

  1. 12 Jewish Questions – Nearly 200 people have deepened their connection to Judaism since the pandemic began from all across the country — even Hawaii!
  2. Partnering in Pandemic – Bringing in a marriage counselor, sex therapist, seasoned couples, and a rabbi/masseuse, this 4-part series helped couples deepen their love in this time of pandemic.
  3. Espresso Shot of Torah – This vibrant weekly Torah study community is a highlight of my week, and a perfect way to add some holiness to a Wednesday morning.

Check out more highlights from the last 12 months in our Pandemic Year-In-Review: