Silver linings in 2020—really? Really!
By Stacey Spencer • Jewish Inclusion Program Manager
As 2020 turned the corner and rolled into 2021, I started thinking about some positives that have occurred because and in spite of the pandemic. First, I have learned to not only accept the dark, cold Minnesota winters – I actually now embrace it. Living in Minnesota my entire life, I have come into winter kicking, screaming and mostly hibernating. Without my usual pre-pandemic indoor gym available, I have instituted a new motto, “There is no bad weather, just bad outer clothing.” I now very much look forward to my daily outdoor nature walks, no matter what the winter elements are, and much to the disbelief of my friends and family.
In that same vein, it is a definite unseen benefit that my adult son, who lives out of state (very thankful that my daughter lives close by), has been able to come home for longer and more frequent stretches of time due to the pandemic and his ability to work remotely. That would have not been possible in our pre-pandemic world.
I think the situations I am describing are “silver linings,” which has become a popular phase during the global pandemic. After hearing about silver linings time and time again, it made me wonder what the origins of the phrase meant and where it came from. According to vocabulary.com, we should use the term “silver lining” when we want to emphasize the hopeful side of a situation that might seem gloomy on the surface. Likewise, the common expression “every cloud has a silver lining” means that even the worst events or situations have some positive aspect.
The JFCS Inclusion Program’s Caring Connections participants have had some silver linings amidst the onset of COVID-19. When the pandemic started and all in-person events were cancelled, we created a Caring Connections Facebook group page. Caring Connections members have shared pictures, thoughts and positive viewpoints with each other, enabling them to feel connected while not able to meet in person. Facebook was also a great platform to host a Passover Seder. Not only did Caring Connections participants join in on the Seder, but their families, friends, group home housemates and staff joined in as well. Participants were engaged and commented more than 150 times during this interactive, fun and heartwarming virtual event.
Since the kickoff of that first virtual event, we’ve expanded to Zoom and had many more positive online Caring Connections events; Kabbalat Shabbat sing-a-longs, Havdalah by the Campfire event, celebrating the Jewish New Year with laughter program, an uplifting Thanksgiving Havdalah, and an interactive Chanukah Karaoke Jubilee celebration. Caring Connections members also hosted an amazing magician, a funny standup comedian, and a well-known local songwriter and musician during some live Zoom sessions.
This type of accessibility – attending events without worrying about weather, transportation and physical accessibility – has opened new doors for Caring Connections members. The pivot from in-person to virtual events helped participants stay connected to our Jewish community, their Judaism, and each other – even during a global pandemic. It helped reduce feelings of isolation, disappointments and loneliness. It also allowed Caring Connections members who never attended in-person events to join in, make new friends, and connect to their Judaism. We have, on average, over 30 households joining virtual Caring Connections events!
We will be celebrating 2021’s Jewish Disability Awareness Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) virtually. JDAIM, established in 2009, represents a global effort to unite Jewish communities in raising awareness and championing the rights of every Jew to be accepted and included in all aspects of Jewish life (JDAIM Guide). On Sunday, Feb. 21, at 3 p.m. CST, JFCS and the community Jewish Accessible Inclusion Collaborative will host “Living Art,” a documentary that follows the life of Mara Clawson, a brilliant visual artist battling a life-threatening genetic disease. As Mara’s career begins to flourish and she continues to fight for survival, Mara will show us what it means to create life inspired by love and kindness. This free heartfelt and profound film event will include an introduction and live Q&A from Mara, her parents and the film’s director. For more information and to register for the event, click here.
This virtual film screening is a good example of how the pandemic has expanded options for people with disabilities. According to The New York Times, for some of the 61 million Americans with disabilities, remote accommodations and the ability to work, learn and socialize from home has been an unexpected expansion of possibility. In essence, silver linings spawned from the pandemic have helped remove roadblocks that have been in place for people with disabilities for decades. Now, our synagogues and Jewish organizations like JFCS have turned into communities without walls where everyone can attend and have access to Judaism – a goal we have been working towards for a long time. Let’s hope our silver linings gained from the pandemic stick around – after all, we can all keep working on finding a ray of hope and sunshine, even on the darker days!