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outside the box

05/07/2020 10:31:11 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Leave it to an old language, Yiddish, to be nimble, responsive, and modern.  Many, if not most of us, use Zoom multiple times per day. If you are one of those who tires of the constant usage, the new Yiddish term is oysgezoomt, literally “over-Zoomed”. My addition to this new terminology is to include a word for those who just cannot adapt or utilize Zoom properly: farzoomt. Attempts at humor aside, these words speak to our rapid adaptation to what for some was unfamiliar technology just two months ago.

Like all technologies, there is certainly good about it if used properly and as intended. Within reason, all of the attendees can be seen and heard, as well as muted. The interaction that we crave can be done safely distanced from one another. Questions can be submitted through the chat bar or by raising your hand. A session can be recorded as well for those who were unable to attend. People who are farzoomt are able to use their telephone to call and listen. Not only are we quarantined and generally stuck at home, but we are also stuck in a box, the Zoom box. We need to think out-of-the-box.

We need to do this on many levels. For me, as a Rabbi/Hazzan, I wonder how the use of technology will impact the future of religious services, adult education, board meetings and life cycle events. I recognize that despite the best recommendations of when it might be safe to resume services, many will not feel safe to attend physically.  What are the creative ways to use technology that maintains safe connections? The old ways are gone; what will the new ways look like?

When we begin to explore the outdoors once again, how safe will we be? If you have not had the virus, as best as you know, the range of responses from our fellow citizens may run the gamut from irresponsible to a bit over the top. Will our concerns for health turn us into hypochondriacs or medical police?

I observed a few weeks ago that we are tactile beings; we crave touching. Will COVID-19 change the way that we will now interact with fellow human beings? Will we no longer hug and/or kiss those that we used to? What about handshakes and high fives? Will bowing and elbow bumps become the new form of physical contact? Will we continue to observe the six-foot physical distancing?

There have been moments when great accomplishments have followed great tragedies. The Renaissance followed Black Death. The New Deal followed the Great Depression. I remain hopeful that there are enough smart people on this planet who will help usher in a new era. What it will look like is no longer the fodder for science fiction novels, but reality borne from experience. It will be a bumpy ride for certain, but I have faith that lessons learned will lead us to a better future, with the kindnesses that we have witnessed remaining as a new norm. Fasten your seat belts, but enjoy the ride.

Thu, October 1 2020 13 Tishrei 5781