I’m going out on a limb here: I’m thinking that many of you are suffering from what I call “virtual fatigue.”
You’re getting tired of all the virtual aspects of life brought on by the coronavirus pandemic: virtual religious services, virtual meetings, virtual classrooms, virtual celebrations, even virtual shivas.
I get it. We can live with masks and without handshakes, but we need human contact.
Which explains why so many of us have dipped our collective toe into the waters of normalcy in recent months.
Throughout Louisville, restaurants have reopened, as have private and public schools (though not all). Barber shops, salons, nail parlors, retail stores have all reopened – in safe, socially distant ways.
Even Jewish Louisville has tried to throw off the deadweight of virtual fatigue, and we’re getting creative about how we do it.
This past month, the Jewish Community of Louisville held a live groundbreaking for its future JCC. About 40 people actually attended, turning ceremonial shovels full of dirt, but more than 150 others watched online.
Temple Shalom held its first in-person service since March – a Simchat Torah celebration on its back lawn. Some twenty-five worshippers brought their own lawn chairs and sat far apart. Thirty others Zoomed in, including a song-leading student rabbi from California whose music was piped in though a Bose speaker. The Torahs were paraded across the grass without anyone touching or kissing the scrolls.
At Keneseth Israel, members reconfigured their sukkah from “walk-in” to “drive through,” setting up the enlarged booth in their parking lot, where they could drive in, park and perform the mitzvot from the comfort of their own vehicles, their sunroofs (if they had them) open so they could see the sky.
KI also is planning a drive-in service on Sunday, Nov. 1, taking a play out of the mega-churches’ playbook.
For a couple months now, The Temple has been holding socially distant b’nai mitzvah services in their main sanctuary. Anshei Sfard and Chabad have returned to regular in-person services. They got together for the High Holy Days, too, though with some tweaking. (AS pitched a tent in the parking lot outside its Shalom Towers suite, while Chabad offered a hybrid arrangement of indoor and outdoor seating.)
And of course, the JCC’s fitness center, Camp J and Early Learning Center have all reopened for business.
Add to that, the odd social event here and there (outdoors) and the dedicated volunteers who continue to deliver meals and reach out to seniors, and it all paints a picture of a community that is stirring from its isolation, trying hard to get back to normal.
Like I said, I get it, only let’s be careful about moving too fast.
This virus is still with us, and it’s getting worse. Infection and death tolls continue to rise. A premature shirking of vigilance could lead to more deaths and push off a true return to normalcy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 9 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported since in the United States alone Jan. 21 and more than 225,000 deaths. From state to state, infection rates are spiking nationwide.
And the numbers are expected to get worse as the weather gets colder.
This past weekend alone, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced the highest one-day total of new cases of to date: 1,738. The governor called the figure “frightening.”
We’re not alone. Countries across Europe are recording their own spikes. Spain just imposed a national curfew to control the spread. Italy, which was ground zero for COVID early this year, also has imposed new restrictions, shutting down cinemas, pools and gyms.
Virtual fatigue is real, but it’s not a good enough reason to hit the gas on reopening before the pandemic is under control.
(Lee Chottiner is the editor of the Jewish Louisville Community.)