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We are Chizuk Introduction

At my installation as Chizuk Amuno Congregation President, I asked, “Who are we as a community?” I continue to learn the answer to that question on a daily basis.

At the time, I described Chizuk Amuno as “a group of exceptionally talented, educated, artistic, philanthropic, and socially-aware individuals.” On every pandemic-filled day since, I have seen this description ring true. Yet it is insufficient to describe Chizuk Amuno,  a community that represents the sum of our collective personalities, relationships, and personal life experiences, linked by a spiritual bond.

While we have been physically isolated, we have been determined to find the energy and creativity to resist social isolation. Out of necessity, our religious services, lectures, happy hours, book talks, Hesed initiatives and social advocacy efforts have been reimagined.  I won’t sugarcoat what has been lost, yet I can’t over-exaggerate how we have become more accessible, interactive and closely bonded than before. Our offerings have seen better attendance than pre-pandemic.

We seem to be together more regularly. When at services, we not only chat with the person sitting next to us as in the past, but rather with anyone or everyone! While in our Zoom boxes, we catch a glimpse into each other’s world, literally sharing our living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. Formality has often been dropped – yes, some of us have attended services in our PJs!
Many have commented that they have been moved, not only, by the particular activities we have shared, but by the determined attitude and energy that clergy, staff, volunteers, and congregants have expended to push back on the limitations of the pandemic.

Who would have imagined blowing the shofar from the platform of a hook and ladder truck high over our parking lot?  Who would have imagined watching movies together outside, with our kids sitting on top of our minivans?  Who would have conceived of chat boxes full of Mazel Tovs as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah finishes chanting the Haftorah?

What a blessing it is to have grandparents from across the country and the world participating in our family services, shepping nachas as their grandkids participate. Classes, discussions, and meetings that occur in the evening are now accessible to congregants who would normally hesitate to drive after dark. Events are recorded so no one has to miss out due to a scheduling conflict.  In a big congregation such as ours, many of us are having intimate experiences, taking advantage of our small havurot (friend groups) to explore hobbies together and support those of us who feel isolated.

Turning challenges into opportunity has characterized who we have been as a community over the past year. And clearly, when this is over, we will be forever changed. All of us need to be part of the conversation to help determine who we will be.
At Chizuk, there is no greater goal than to build relationships, growing and learning from each others’ voices and perspectives. This series of conversations, “We are Chizuk” is an effort to further explore our congregational diversity and the communal efforts in which we participate. Help us define who we are and who we will be post-pandemic.  In this series of messages, we will hear from various members, our youth, lay leadership, teachers, and clergy.  As we forge a path to the future, hopefully, we will hear from you!

Stephen Pomerantz, M.D.
President, Chizuk Amuno Congregation & Schools

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784