Temple Israel rabbi: ‘Whatever happens to us, ultimately our soul is still whole’

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Marcia Zimmerman, rabbi, Temple Israel 

We’re noticing there’s more concerns out there about finances and people are losing their jobs. How do we stay in touch with everybody and help when we can? That’s an important piece of what we’re doing. 

What is really important is we have to acknowledge the feelings are real and the fear is real. Trying to do anything else feels inauthentic. Then the reality of turning to Judaism and our tradition and the strength we have been given over the years during times of disruption and great chaos is there for us to dip into, as deep as we can, the well of Jewish experiences.

The other part is just to hold it, hold the fear. It’s OK for us to feel afraid because it’s an unknown. It’s OK that we will be able to get through this as best as we can. So prayer, calming the soul, meditation, reflection, things that religion has to offer is really important.

To say whatever happens to us, ultimately our soul is still whole, our soul is still strong, that our soul reaches out to each other. We tend to want to isolate when we’re afraid, when the best thing for us to do is reach out. 

I am part of a group of senior clergy of the Downtown congregations and we’ve been motivated by a conversation with [Attorney General) Keith Ellison to begin engaging social media to make sure we fight the hate that is ignited by this, the blaming, and putting into the airwaves counter messages: that we are one community, that we move toward finding each other, learning from each other’s differences and making sure we stay connected. We’re eager to do that and to be a part of solving some of these social ills of scapegoating, trying to find simple answers for complex issues and helping people deal with their fears in a more constructive way.