Quarantined From Faith? – Hannah Silver

Well, here we are. Another article about the Coronavirus—you are welcome! 😉 

Yesterday was hard and overwhelming. My day started one way and ended completely different. My day started with writing a blog post– this blog post– about my study abroad plans for the fall. My day ended with me writing a blog post– this same blog post– about the coronavirus and worrying for those currently studying abroad. Just like my world did in one day, this blog post got flipped upside down.

Six months ago, at the start of the school year and CRGC’s interfaith fellowship, I would never have guessed I would be here– in Chicago, at home– writing this blog post. I would never have guessed I would be here because of a virus. And I really would have never guessed that I would be connecting all this to faith.

Al-Haram Mosque is empty. The Western Wall is empty. The Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral is empty. It’s scary. How do we make sense of all of this? How do we cope with being quarantined from faith, community, and prayer?

Every Wednesday, I help facilitate the Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF) at the University of Wisconsin’s Hillel– the Jewish center on campus. JLF gives students a space once-a-week to answer “Life’s Big Questions” in a Jewish context. This week’s topic: G-d*. Does G-d exist? What does G-d look like? Does G-d have a gender? Like I said, lots of big questions. But as many other programs did yesterday, our curriculum got reconstructed just hours before the session. Mid-afternoon, Hillel International sent all JLF facilitators a new curriculum with a new topic: COVID-19.

“Torah For a Plague” was the title of the session, including five sources informing us of how the Torah tells us to deal with plague. While some students found comfort in these texts, it was something different that stuck with me. Being together, surrounded by Jewish people I had been surrounded by the entire semester, I could tell that everyone was genuinely there for each other; we all felt for each other. For some of us, our freshman year was being interrupted, for others, we were going back to a home we didn’t want to go back to; some of our senior years were being cut short, and some of us were leaving friends whom we had just met. But no matter which category we fit in to, we were going through it together and were going to be there for each other– at least during this two-hour JLF session.

We went around and each said one word of how we were feeling. I said “dizzy”. Honestly, I’m still dizzy; I wasn’t the only dizzy one in the room. Comfort in my community is the only way I was going to get through that night. Because of them, I got through that night.

Now more than ever, we need to be there for each other. Ironically, this is a time when we can’t physically be there for each other. Please, use technology to your advantage. Use faith to your advantage. Use community to your advantage. Thankfully, when your whole world is turned upside down, usually the same people stay in it. Use each other to your advantage.


*As a Jew, I do not write out the full name of G-d because if this post were to be printed out and thrown away or posted and then deleted, we would be throwing out or deleting the name of G-d.