What is Community?

What is community? It can have different meanings in different situations. According to the New Oxford Dictionary, it means:
“1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common;
2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals;
3. (Ecology) a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat.”

But what does it mean in the context of Temple Beth Or? Yes, we all live, more or less, in the same place and share the intention of engaging with the Jewish people of our region. Yes, we have a sense of fellowship centered on the values of k’hilah, Torah, avodah, tikkun olam, as described in our mission statement. Yes, we are interdependent organisms . . .

For me, it means so much more than those three definitions listed above. It means that we take care of each other. We work together towards common goals; appreciating what each one of us has to offer; sharing what we can; respecting each other; pitching in a little extra when we can and accepting support from the others when we are in need. Like a family, we are all in this (whatever “this” may be) together.

COVID -19 is a great example of how this works. The pandemic has both challenged us and given us an opportunity to rethink how to stay connected. While we have had to adapt the way we interact due to restrictions and precautions required by federal, state, and local health officials, we have also had the chance to really look after our more vulnerable members. Volunteers made phone calls, did shopping, sent cards and provided a variety of support to those individuals.

Our community includes those who are fortunate enough to be young, strong and healthy, have convenient access to vaccines and boosters for their entire extended family, and have good control of their work and school environments. The community also includes those who may be vulnerable for a variety of reasons. There may be family members who are not eligible for vaccines, are immune-compromised, elderly, or have other health risks. It also includes those who might have higher levels of anxiety about the pandemic and those who work or study in more exposed/risky environments, such as our dedicated medical professionals and emergency responders.

While the strong and healthy may feel confident that COVID-19 will not harm them, they can choose to take additional steps, such as continuing masking, frequent hand washing, and social distancing, in order to protect the more vulnerable members of the community. Those that are more vulnerable can be re-assured knowing that the others are doing a little bit extra to help protect them. We look after each other and are willing to put up with some inconvenience to help out other members of our community who are more at risk.

The entire congregation has really stepped up to create an environment where we have respected our protocols and recommendations to help protect these more vulnerable folks. I am grateful to everyone for their patience and cooperation in making that happen.

I would like to ask our entire TBO family to keep this sense of community in mind going forward, regardless what others are doing. Recognize that we should all think about taking care of everyone, not just ourselves. We are more than just a collection of individuals; we are interdependent organisms – we are a community.

Note: this article was prepared in mid- February. Who knows what has happened since then with respect to COVID-19. This situation is very fluid. . . . That doesn’t change that we are still a community!

Melanie (she/her)