Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Rabbis Without Borders has taken on a whole new meaning. I feel like I should call it parenting without borders.
The next few weeks (or more) are going to be tough. From a rabbinic perspective as well as a parenting perspective.
For the past ten years, I have been a rabbi without borders. Even before I did the program I was borderless. Running Online Jewish Learning, a program that teaches students all around the world regardless of affiliation or membership has enabled me to serve individuals, families, and communities without borders.
Now that my primary role over the next few weeks (aside from my day job as a rabbi and CEO of a company) is a mom or “parent without borders” if you will. I have to figure out how to balance my life and my kids lives as we navigate this new reality of being homebound (for the most part).
I am struggling to figure out what it means to live within tight borders but without borders. For kids to be home from school (borders) but not to have a daily program (without borders). What it means to be a working parent/rabbi (borders) but to have the kids home (too many borders). I have never been the best time manager (understatement of my life) but recognize that the only way I and we, as a family will survive this uncertain time is through implementing borders and structure to our daily lives. While our personal lives need structure (to manage our children’s open schedules while out of school), our Jewish lives may need just opposite-a lack of borders.
In my professional life, I am breaking barriers and going beyond borders to meet Jewish individuals, families, and communities where they are. Now we are seeing that many communities are struggling to figure out what it means to serve their communities and members outside the borders of their community. How can we keep people connected when we all feel physically disconnected? One way is through offering our families and students a way to connect virtually and continue their Jewish learning and connection to our communities. We do not know when we will be able to open our schools and synagogue doors again in a safe way in light of this virus, but that does not mean we have to close the doors to learning.
Education is borderless-it does not have to be in the classroom. It does not have to be in the synagogue. It does not have to be in a book or a scroll. Education can happen anywhere and anytime, just like the Torah. Torah has no borders-it can be interpreted, studied and lived in many different ways and forms. Just because we are not in Hebrew School does not mean our communities, our children have to stop learning and feeling connected.
Synagogues and other Jewish institutions are finally seeing the value in online learning for their communities. Not just because of the coronavirus and the fact that there are not many other options for staying connected. For the past ten years, Online Jewish Learning has brought Jewish learning across borders and countries, through tsunamis in Okinawa Japan and hurricanes in Florida. Our Torah does not have borders. By bringing Jewish learning online we are able to reach Jewish people all over the world and help them maintain their connection to the Jewish communities they are a part of and the Jewish tradition they love.
We need to keep thinking outside the borders of what we know. Yes, it would be ideal that we could all go to Shabbat services tonight and sit in the pews and sing L’cha Dodi. Yes, it would be ideal that our children could be in their day school or Hebrew School classes singing Shabbat songs with their communities. While we cannot be together in person-we can be together in the way that it matters most-in community-even an online community.
Connection is what builds community. In the past, it has been a physical connection. Right now in the wake of the health threat of coronavirus we all face that connection may just be Chai Speed (internet). Whichever way you connect to the Jewish people-take this time to restart and strengthen your connection. We have the time to reconnect.
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky in his commentary on last week’s parashah Ki Tissa, taught that Shabbat is an opportunity for us to anchor ourselves “In a world that is chaotic and difficult to navigate.” He continues that this is especially so when it is “celebrated in the context of family and community.” He concludes that “to nurture one’s relationship with God, one should continually expand one’s celebration of Shabbat.”
We have a unique opportunity today to expand our experience of Shabbat. We have an opportunity to bring Shabbat into the homes of our members and families. We have an opportunity to live stream and watch Shabbat with Jewish people from all over the world. We are not experiencing Shabbat in our communities tonight, but we are still celebrating and expanding the experience of what it means to celebrate Shabbat within the context of the greater Jewish people-a Jewish community without borders.
So this week, prepare Shabbat dinner, light the candles, and bring your family around your laptop or iPad and join the many many other Jewish individuals, families, and communities who are celebrating Shabbat together, today, online-all around the world.
Shabbat Shalom. Wash your hands!!