By Meara Razon Ashtivker

Our people face deep uncertainty, anxiety and fear amid

the coronavirus pandemic. Jews are resilient survivors, and

we will certainly find new ways to maintain and move
forward as a Jewish community. Today’s challenges offer us
an opportunity to glimpse what the future may look like.
Three lessons can be gleaned from our reactions to this
plague that can assist our community in adjusting during
this pandemic and strengthen us beyond. First, how we
engage with one another this year and in the future will
blend online and offline connections like never before.
Coming out of the crisis, we will be stronger and more
connected for having learned yet again to adapt.
The second lesson we must embrace is that Israel is the
glue that binds us together. We see Israel unite us, even
with travel restrictions, as Jews around the world look for
opportunities to help one another and stay connected.
At Masa, our international family has felt closer, despite the physical distancing, because of
Israel. We have a network of 160,000 alumni from 62 countries, as well as 4,200 Masa
Israel Fellows in Israel currently. Masa: Online, our new virtual platform, hosts a wide
range of our programs, including ulpan courses, educational seminars, virtual meals,
prayer services, exercise classes, discussions on current events and more. We’ve all been
impacted by this pandemic, yet we’re not living in social isolation. The bridges we’ve built
through Israel have enabled us to maintain strong relationships digitally, so we don’t feel
alone.
Several Masa programs have also adapted to meet public-health needs in Israel. For
example, some Fellows have relocated within Israel to rural kibbutzim in order to support
farms that provide crucial food resources to the country. It is inspiring that at this
uncertain time, many of our young Fellows are still doing meaningful work that
simultaneously meets the needs of Israeli society.
The final lesson is that in order to recover and build as a community, we must embrace the
importance of our Jewish institutions. Most were built at a time of economic stability,
growth and possibility. We may have been taking them for granted while they steadfastly
created a framework of resources that we must now rely on to care for the needy and most
vulnerable in our community. To rebuild our Jewish community after the mental, economic
and social impact of the virus has passed over us, we must step up as a community more
than ever and invest in the institutions that provide Jewish experiences and crucial
resources.
We must help each other stay engaged with our Jewish traditions and the people of Israel.
We need to continue our learning and growth so that we stay connected and strong during
and after these challenging times.
The Jewish Agency for Israel, Jewish Federations, community centers, synagogues and
nonprofits will ensure that Jews have access to experiences and services that will help us
heal. We will once again send our kids to Hebrew and Sunday schools, summer camps and
Israel experiences. We will gather to celebrate simchas such as births, bar and bat
mitzvahs, weddings and anniversaries.
Our institutions will ensure that Holocaust survivors
live with dignity, that small businesses and families get interest-free loans, and that our
food pantries are stocked. They will offer rehabilitating treatment, mentorship and legal
services. Our community will need diverse resources to rebuild, and we are so fortunate to
have a web of connected services ready to help us do just that.
The value these Jewish institutions offer our community will only become more
pronounced. Now is the time to step up and support them-to show our gratitude for being
a resilient community that can weather this storm, and to emerge stronger and more
connected than ever.
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