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  • A Perspective of an Agnostic/Atheist from a Jewish Family

    I am not affiliated with any religion and have trouble believing in a higher being as described in many houses of worship. The coronavirus pandemic, by sending religions scrambling to redefine important traditions, has strengthened these secular beliefs. However, I appreciate the uplifting effects that religion can have on families during this trying time. Because of social distancing measures, this year was the first time my family held Passover completely alone. This was a gloomy thought as Passover is a holiday to spend time with and appreciate family and friends. Surprisingly, though, quarantine managed to gather our geographically scattered family in a way we never could. I am attending college in another state and normally cannot come home for Passover. This year the pandemic fortuitously returned me home right before it began. Then, with the help of newly popularized video platforms like Zoom, we were able to celebrate the Passover seder with nearly all of my mom’s family for the first time in my life. It still strikes me that the mixture of my family’s religion and the hardship of the pandemic created a family reunion that would probably not have happened otherwise. I disagree with many tenets of religion, but I will be forever grateful for its ability to bring people together.
  • Healing Heartbreak

    Jewish religion heavily honors life cycle events as a way to guide practitioners through a moral, spiritual, and meaningful journey. When I was first informed of my 50-year-old uncle’s sudden death from a heart attack, I was in disbelief. How could such an incredible athlete with an admirable diet and a healthy lifestyle die from such a complication? Mike was the most intelligent and humble man I have ever known, pouring all of his heart into his children, his wife, his clients and anyone who had the privilege of meeting him. Most importantly, Mike embodied the Jewish community. After Mike’s passing, my aunt received deeply heartfelt emails from more people than imaginable. Mike continues to unite the sense of a Jewish community through his memory. When a Jewish person passes, it is custom that the funeral service and burial quickly follow to best preserve and honor the body. When the mourners return home from the funeral, the shiva - a formal, seven-day Jewish mourning - begins. The shiva serves to bring together the Jewish community in mourning and in celebration of the life of the deceased. The Jewish people were never instructed on how to properly mourn during a worldwide pandemic. Nonetheless, Mike’s wisdom surpassed precedent. Our extended family and friends gathered online to say the mourner’s kaddish, which does not mention death but rather asks God to pray for the souls of the deceased. Mimicking the environment of a shiva house, many people then shared stories of Mike, allowing for both cries and soft laughter to be heard. Mike’s memory joined family and friends from all across the nation, creating a sense of community and comfort that we all so deeply miss during this time of isolation. I know Mike will continue to embrace and uplift the Jewish community through his memory for years to come.