Observing Shabbat during COVID-19

I continue to buy Shabbat flowers each week for my home, waiting for the day when I can set them up in the atrium again.

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ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

Every Friday at 5:00 pm, I get up from my desk and announce “I am going to do my Jewish thing.” I walk downstairs, arrange the flowers I purchased for the Oneg table, set them up along with the signs thanking the oneg sponsors and begin my Shabbat.

You see, I am a Professional Jew. I am the Member Engagement Manager at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA where I have been working for 25 years. The best part of my week is welcoming our 300 plus Shabbat service attendees. Hugs, kisses, “how was your week?” are among the things I love the most and with the current climate, I am afraid what I miss the most.

People often ask me if I mind working every Friday night. My answer is no, I can get more information from our members on any given Shabbat than our clergy can get in a week. Deaths, illnesses, babies, the good and the bad, they tell me. Many weeks we have Shabbat dinners followed by programs; I am there with our cards for those who signed up to join us, showing what table number they will be sitting at. Why do I do this? So that no one walks into one of our dinners and says – where am I going to sit? So that no person who is single or new to the temple will need to worry that people only sit with their friends. There is a space and place for everyone.

On weeks when there is no dinner or programming after services, I head home where my husband has dinner waiting for me. Our Shabbat dinner consists of an omelette with a bialy, just perfect after a long week of work.

Growing up, we did not celebrate Shabbat as a family. Occasionally when I had to go to services for Hebrew school, I would go. But sometimes there wasn’t even a minyan in the sanctuary.

My son was enrolled in a Jewish pre-school. Each week, in those days, I would leave work at 2:00 PM to go home and prepare Shabbat dinner for our family and my parents who would pick Michael up and bring him home. It was a wonderful three years of lighting candles, sharing challah and wine and some family time. I really miss those days.

Currently, with the temple closed, we have been zooming Shabbat. One week, we decided to take Shabbat off and not “attend” services. I received about a dozen emails asking me where I was on Friday night. I was zoom shamed. Needless to say, I haven’t missed a week since.

I continue to buy Shabbat flowers each week for my home, waiting for the day when I can set them up in the atrium again. Waiting for the day when I can see our members, in 3D, not over a computer screen.

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