Temple Israel rabbi: ‘We have let too much happen that is not OK’

Marcia Zimmerman
Marcia Zimmerman

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 edited for length and clarity.

Marcia Zimmerman, rabbi, Temple Israel 

There’s so much we can do. There’s so much coronavirus doesn’t touch and that, I think, is important, while understanding this is a deadly virus. We have to keep each other safe, and we have to be consistent about staying home. I think sometimes people are downplaying how powerful this virus is. It’s become a partisan issue which is so frustrating. I feel that when I watch protests, people get to have their opinion, but it doesn’t have to be an opinion that puts others at risk.

This is not a war of a nation against a nation; this is disease versus humanity. It’s really important for us to know we are not here to point a finger at any one person or people. It really is something that affects us all, so it should bring it all together. No one is immune, but we all experience it differently based on our own situation. I read something about how we’re all in the same storm but we all have different boats. Some have yachts and some have row boats. We have to be very aware of the social discrepancies in our society and we should be appalled by them. 

One of the things I’ve talked about is the idea that there’s an illness in our mix but that Judaism is healthy. It’s important to dig into the lessons that Judaism has for us. We are so busy so often that we haven’t had time to do that. You ask Jews all over, “What’s the most important part of Judaism?” And they always say, “Community.” And that’s all really important, but there’s a whole host of treasure over here that you guys have ignored for far too long. So let’s get into that, let’s play with that and take it seriously. That will help you.

This virus has shown us as a country, as religious communities, that we have let too much happen that is not OK. The injustices, things that are unacceptable. So we need to be a beacon of insight and peace and if this virus doesn’t teach us that, then we really need to look at our values. Nobody invited this, but if it’s here, we’d better figure out some lessons. 

We keep saying to ourselves, “Why is there so much attendance at services and holidays that we haven’t had so much attendance for in the past?” We keep asking why. Is it because there’s nothing to do? Or is it because we are creating meaning for them in these situations, and how do we hold on to that? It’s probably a little bit of all the above, but I think that’s really important.

Two of my three children live in town. My other child lives in Boston. We have family Zooms. My kids who live here don’t want to infect us or anything like that. We have very distant hellos, well beyond six feet. I do get to see their faces, which is helpful. I haven’t been able to hug them or give them a kiss. That’s going to feel very wonderful when that can happen.  


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