Reflections: From last Purim to this Purim: Imagining a Better World

From last Purim to this Purim: Imagining a Better World

Tomorrow the students and faculty of Schechter Manhattan, and Jews around the world, will celebrate the silliest holiday of the Jewish year, Purim.  We will dress in costume, participate in games, sing, and laugh. Woven into all the fun of Purim there is a hope that the world as we know it, frequently scary and dangerous, often broken and filled with sadness, will be transformed, turned topsy-turvy, into the world we aspire to live in.  This Purim that hope could not be more poignant, as we mark a year since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in our community.

It was the week of Purim last year that we made the difficult decision to move our school to distance learning to avoid the risk of infection. Little could we imagine what the year ahead would look like.  We didn’t know that we would not return to the Schechter Manhattan school building for the remainder of last school year.  Or that we would return in the fall to a school that looks and feels very different, with public health guidelines, daily health screenings, 6 feet distance, masks, quarantine rules, and surveillance testing, to name a few of the many, many things that changed.  Or that so many people in our community and around the world would face illness and death.  The numbers are staggering.  Over half a million people lost in the United States and nearly two and a half million worldwide to date- truly unimaginable.

We are so thankful that we have been able to sustain our school community through this difficult year.  In-person and distance learning instruction are taking place.  To date there has been no transmission of COVID-19 within the walls of Schechter Manhattan.  The amazing Schechter Manhattan community continues to support one another day in and day out.  As I look back on the last year, I am filled with gratitude for each member of our special school community– students, faculty and staff, parents, board members, alumni and alumni families, grandparents and special friends, and all of our supporters.  It is our care for one another that has allowed us to move together through such hard times.

The emotional impact of this year of illness and loss can not be overstated, and it is appropriate to mark this moment together.  Schechter Manhattan will join together with the larger Jewish community on Tuesday, March 2, 5:00 PM, to commemorate the collective loss we’ve experienced and to honor our resilience and strength.  Click here to register for Healing and Hope: A Jewish Community Gathering Marking One Year of Covid, organized by UJA Federation of New York.  I hope you will consider joining us at this meaningful community moment.

As we begin Purim, I pray that the year ahead will bring to reality the hope for change expressed in the Book of Esther (9:22), that we will move מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה
וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב, from grief to joy and from mourning to festivity.