On Tuesday at midday the nation marked the anniversary of the first lockdown with a minute’s silence to remember those who have died. For all of us, the past year has been tough: for those who have lost loved ones; for those who have been in hospital alone without visitors, or isolated in a Care Home; for those who have been unable to attend in person the funeral of a family member or friend; for those suffering the effects of long- Covid. For those on the front line – in our hospitals and our Care Homes, our supermarkets and corner shops; for our firemen and women, our policemen and women and so many more – the work load has been overwhelming. Our resilience as a nation has been humbling to witness. And the outpouring of compassion as people have stepped up to help one another in a multitude of acts of kindness has inspired us all.
The past year for our SWESRS community has been a microcosm of the nation’s experience. Our loss has been great. Who can have failed to heave a heavy sigh reading the shul notifications week after week, month after month, of those who have died during this long year of lockdown? Yet we too have stepped up to the mark. Over 100 volunteers came forward to make phone calls for the SWESRS Phone Tree and to deliver groceries to those isolating without family or neighbours nearby. We have found new ways to do old things –funerals and shivas on zoom; Tuesday lunch-club transformed into Tea@2 with real cake to accompany the virtual chat and entertainment; a wide range of regular community activities; Shabbat and festival services with twice and three times as many people participating as in pre-Covid times in the shul building. It’s not the same as meeting in person. But I know I am not alone in my sense of connecting in a deep and intimate spiritual experience with those who have shared in building our community anew online.
As we gather for our Seders this Saturday and Sunday evening – and I do hope many of you will join us for our online Community Seders (6 30pm on Sunday, preceded by a Family Friendly Seder led by Student Rabbi Tali at 5pm) – we should take some time to reflect on the terrible year it has been for us all. But we should also draw strength from our achievements, from our coming together to help each other, and to count our blessings - what is Dayenu if not an expression of gratitude and thanksgiving?!
During Yizkor on 7th Day Pesach a week on Shabbat we will read out the names of everyone who has died since February 2020, acknowledging the extent of our individual and collective loss. Anniversaries are difficult. Nothing can fully take away the pain of the past year. But, as Muslim Interfaith and Social Action activist Julie Siddique reflected during Tuesday’s Thought for the Day, we can hold those people who have lost loved ones in our hearts and prayers, reach out and remind ourselves that we are there for each other.
May this Pesach bring Hope, Healing and Renewal to us All.
Wishing You and Your Loved Ones a Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!