I remember 19 years ago today vividly as I am sure many of you do. When American Airlines Flight 11 hit the first tower, we thought it was an accident. When United Airlines flight 175 hit the second tower, we knew something bad was happening. When American Airlines flight 77 hit the Pentagon we knew we were under attack. As South Tower collapsed, we watched in horror. We learned about United Airlines flight 93 crashing in Shanksville, PA and were gripped by fear. What would happen next? Where was the next attack going to be? Finally the North Tower collapsed and we began mourning. As I sat at University of Florida Hillel students began gathering to watch the news coverage together. As a community we joined to share the horror, the fear, and gain comfort by being together.
19 years later, we remember the 2,977 lives lost due to that attack. We mourn the loss of our country’s innocence and the way all of our lives have changed since that day. We remember the spouses who lost their partner, the children who lost their parent, the parents who lost their children, and the siblings who lost their siblings.
In 2020 we are faced with Coronavirus pandemic. While a virus instead of a terrorist has impacted all of our lives, similar to the impact of September 11, 2001 we are again finding comfort in community. When I hear the work of the Jewish agencies, synagogues and the Jewish Federation to take care of the Central Florida Jewish community, I am inspired. One of the core tenants of Judaism is community. Certain prayers require a community (a minyan, 10 people) in order to say them. We learn together, not individually, our Shabbat table is filled with people and the upcoming High Holidays are typically represented with large gatherings around meals, worship, and breaking the fast. All of that will be different this year.
As I watch our community continue to pivot, adjust, and find new ways to ensure everybody can find a home and a place to be a part of something larger, I realize how lucky we are. Even though Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot will look very different this year, we will find ways to celebrate together. We are finding ways to hear the sound of the Shofar, pray, and be a community. For me, this is the essence of Judaism. We are a community, a people, a mishpacha (family). We know we are stronger and better together and place that at the center of what we do.
So as we remember the impact of September 11, 2001 today and how it changed the lives of all Americans, let’s also pay attention to how Covid-19 is changing how we find community during the chagim, not if we still find ways to join together as a community. The joy of Judaism and Jewish community is clear, especially during challenging times.