Am I my brother’s keeper?
הֲשֹׁמֵ֥ר אָחִ֖י אָנֹֽכִי׃
Year after year, countless people tell me they choose Yavneh because of our community. In our increasingly online and automated world, they share that they are looking not just for a school community for their child, but rather a community for their whole family; they want people to connect with and celebrate with. The value of community is obvious and beautiful when we are singing together, cheering each other on, and celebrating milestones. But what do we do in times of crisis? What about situations of uncertainty and anxiety, especially like the one we currently find ourselves in? These are the moments that truly test the strength of a community.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that we, as a Yavneh community, have been faced with a serious challenge. It is precisely in these moments that the strength of the Yavneh community shines. We have supported each other through sickness, death, bomb threats, and a myriad of other scary moments.
So, what about now? What about in this moment of a global pandemic?
Who is our community? How far do we extend the obligation to take care of each other? Right now, we as human beings are asked to consider the world as our community; we are being asked to consider the health needs of all of those around us. It is irrelevant if we consider ourselves to be in a demographic unlikely to get sick from COVID-19 because our actions can determine whether or not someone else will get sick. What we decide could affect the treatment other people will be able to receive. Furthermore, the demographic of those most susceptible to COVID-19 are categories of people who need extra respect and protection, people whom our tradition tells us we must look out for. We are told to respect and honor our elders in multiple sacred texts. Throughout our tradition we are told to take care of the most vulnerable in our society. It is as if the entirety of Jewish tradition answers the question asked at the very beginning of the Torah, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” with a resounding “Yes!”
As Yascha Mounk wrote in The Atlantic earlier this week, “… the most important responsibility falls on each of us. It’s hard to change our own behavior while the administration and the leaders of other important institutions send the social cue that we should go on as normal. But we must change our behavior anyway. If you feel even a little sick, for the love of your neighbor and everyone’s grandpa, do not go to work.”
With blessings for health and good handwashing, may we continue to be each other’s keepers.