Annie Kempe: Never Before… (Love in the Time of Covid)

e are distant, apart, and often blue. Some have family and friends nearby but it feels as though they may as well be on that sliver of moon. The ease of mundane everyday conversation with loved ones and acquaintances has morphed into simple hopes of “zooming” to wave, blow kisses and, for us, to offer up a “Shabbat Shalom.”

We deeply crave hugs, handshakes and embraces, once freely given and enjoyed.

On the other hand, we find ourselves often becoming absorbed in quietude or creative thoughts and activities, with appreciation for what we think of as “the little things.” Some senses are heightened, colors brighter, nature more enticing, weather more delightful, music more tuneful.

Never before have we felt such gratitude at the seamless way in which our clergy and staff (who are also friends), have kept us connected, moving along through the Jewish calendar, “visiting” as we are able, looking out for one another, and filling in as needed. We are, for a time, energized and hopeful.

Never before have we so reveled in the expansive musical expressions emanating from the vast talent and generous sharing of our clergy. Familiar melodies cheer and hearten us, fortifying us for another week. The spoken word soothes when our clergy render texts in a heartfelt way.

Never before have we so treasured the gift of learning Torah with dear friends, or of enhancing our knowledge of Jewish history and customs. Some of us happily anticipate reading daily Talmud, enjoying the Rabbis-of-old arguing with sincerity and concern, the sages of long ago teaching us how to live with one another.

Never before have we so anticipated our Shabbat services, just to see everyone, healthy and thriving, contributing to one another’s wellbeing and to our community. As Shabbat ends, we find ourselves renewed, enlightened, and fortified for what is ahead.

Never before have we so appreciated how blessed we are and how much we need to empathize with, and finds ways to assist, those in situations of severe hardship, often living with staggering problems, not those of a passing virus. We are called to care for one another: at home, in towns and countries; it’s clearly time to lose man-made boundaries and ways-of-old, extending this concern and action to encompass our world community.

Reflecting on our own historical hardships: we have wandered, been enslaved and exiled. We have been eliminated en masse and, upon rising, alienated yet again.

Ergo, our tribe is often viewed as saying, justifiably, “never again.”

However, we are more inclusive, expansive and adaptable than that, as we carry on.

We are together, as never before.

Annie Kempe is a retired Occupational Therapist from Colorado, having lived for several years in Goleta. The draw of living near her daughter and her family led Annie happily to the gift that is CBB: a place, a people, a touchstone, and a spiritual home for which she is humbly grateful.