5782 wasn’t an easy year, but in at least one very important way, it was a better year.
Some of us finally were able to venture to theaters and sporting events and restaurants. Many of us traveled, visiting family members we had not seen since the spring of 2020. We began to celebrate weddings and b’nai mitzvah together — in person. And we once again felt comfortable gathering with loved ones in times of mourning. Yes, we were sometimes masked, and yes, we were often careful to sit apart from others. But while the dangers of the pandemic remained firmly lodged in our consciousness, our lives began to become recognizable again. And normalcy, or even near-normalcy, felt like a luxury.
Last year, just prior to Rosh Hashanah, when we asked our readers in our weekly poll if they planned to attend High Holiday services in person, just 27% of those responding said yes. This year, when we asked the same question just a couple of weeks ago, the number of those who said they planned to attend services in person swelled to 57%. Our community is gathering again, and we gratefully acknowledge the significance of that. While most non-Orthodox congregations are still making services available online, the majority of Jewish Pittsburghers who attend services are choosing to join with their community in synagogue. We are thrilled to see that happen.
Despite high levels of inflation, extreme political polarization and rising rates of antisemitism across the globe, we have reason to be optimistic: We have learned that together we can weather a once-in-a-lifetime calamity. It was challenging shifting meetings and school and even social events online, but we got through it, and hopefully on our way we garnered a better appreciation of those things that are truly valuable in this life.
The pandemic is not over; we may well be living with the menace of COVID-19 for a long time as infection rates rise and fall and the virus mutates into new strains. But we are thankful for the current reprieve, however brief and however limited, and for the chance to come together again, in person to (borrowing a phrase from author Elizabeth Gilbert) eat, pray and love.
G’mar chatima tova. May we all be sealed in the Book of Life. PJC