Temple Israel rabbi: ‘People are very engaged.’

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

Marcia Zimmerman, rabbi, Temple Israel 

We have been in this for a while and the numbers just keep getting worse. We now know a lot more about COVID than we did when we began, with masks and handwashing and social distancing. There was a study recently that children under 5 don’t transmit the virus in the same way, so we are planning to open up our early childhood center in September to have a hybrid program to do some in-person learning and some virtual. As we know the most basic operational thing in COVID becomes quite complicated and strategic and that’s what we’re finding when it comes to our early childhood center. 

Everyone has different comfort levels. We no longer use the word safety when it comes to COVID; we talk about risk mitigation. That’s been a transition. One person’s comfort with this risk is not necessarily everybody’s, and we have to take into account not only individuals but an entire community. It’s an interesting process, but we’re holding to CDC recommendations and being strict about what it means to keep kids safe and mitigate the risk, while still having socialization. Because I think young families are the ones that are having, psychologically, some of the biggest issues. Young children are not able to use social media like older kids can and socialization is so important for young hearts and minds. It’s been an interesting road. We can only have 44 students, at the most, to maintain social distancing. The least we can have to make it viable is 30 and normally we have up to 108. Those are the things taking up a lot of energy and time, but it feels fulfilling because it’s for young learners and families. 

People are very engaged. It seems Shabbat and Shabbat evenings and Torah studies still have high engagement. We’ve started to put out clergy connections on social media every night with clergy discussing current issues with members, and that’s been popular. 

Just this week we are noticing the flow of emotion. It seems like the change of the seasons brings more anxiety as things continue. We’ve been in summer mode and things have held steady, but as school approaches, and the governor’s announcement today about reopening, all of those things lead to more ambiguity and anxiety and people being upset. 

We’ve interviewed people who have engaged in virtual funerals and summer camps and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. We’re interviewing families about their experience because we think that will be the situation for a while. I think they’re really pleasantly surprised and there are some real blessings. The idea that people can come from all over who wouldn’t be able to travel even if there was no COVID. The kids in summer camp are now getting to know the senior staff because we didn’t hire counselors, and that’s a real treat. As far as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, the idea is to just focus on the kids and not run off to the party. Just having those moments as a family is really important. That’s something that people have found to be a real blessing. 


 You can read all of the stories here.