407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

This has been one of the most stressful weeks our world has seen. The news seems to change multiple times a day, and it’s hard to follow what the best recommendations are, as they also seem to change. Today saw California, New York State and Illinois effectively locked down. We can only assume that Florida will soon follow. Our regular gathering places are no longer options as we practice “social distancing.”

Judaism actually frowns on the concept of “social distancing,” as we are a people of togetherness. So as we physically distance, we must work to ensure that we are still socially connected.

The Orlando Weekday Community Minyan is occurring virtually. Many local Shabbat services are also available online so we can gather via technology. Our community leaders are creating more content available for online streaming, from the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning to classes taught by Rabbis to exercise classes through Les Mills.

If you have been following the special COVID-19 Federation page launched a week ago, you know that we have been collating activities available by our local organizations, and today we have added links to others around the country.

During this global pandemic and national emergency, I have been touched by the many people who have reached out to see how I am doing. People asking if I’m OK; saying thank you for the work of Federation to keep our community strong and thriving. I’ve been inspired by the local Jewish leaders who are stepping up to address this unprecedented public health emergency and finding ways to make sure everyone can stay connected. I’ve been inspired by our volunteer leadership across the country who are stepping up in a situation they never imagined to lead and steward the many organizations, synagogues, and agencies into an uncertain future.

Even in these challenging days, our community profoundly impresses me. I have seen incredible generosity, incredible leadership, incredible cooperation, and true passion. As we prepare for Shabbat, I hope that you will take a moment as you light candles to truly see the light: The light of hope. The light of commitment. The light that the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando brings to our rich, vibrant and amazing community.