CORONAVIRUS BIG PICTURE: FAITH, COMMUNITY & OUTREACH

PARTIAL REMEDY TO CRISIS IS TECHNOLOGY ALLOWING US TO STAY IN TOUCH, SAYS RABBI MARK WILDES 

HOPES SHARED EXPERIENCE REMINDS AMERICANS OF COMMONALITY, LEADS TO MORE RESPECT AND PROBLEM-SOLVING 

SAYS ORGANIZATION IS DOING AS MUCH AS IT CAN ONLINE TO KEEP COMMUNITY ENGAGED DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING 

Social distancing is unnatural and quickly becoming a new normal. So how do we stay connected? How do we cope? How can we help and how will we grow? Rabbi Mark Wildes of The Manhattan Jewish Experience says we should never ask why bad things happen to good people, but we can ask what. What can we do to connect, and what can we do to help each other? He shares how they are meeting the spiritual needs of the community while also reaching isolated urban millennials.

Aired on March 24, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> HELLO, I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

LIKE YOU AT HOME, WE HERE AT 'METROFOCUS' ARE PRACTICING SOCIAL DISTANCING DURING THIS CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.

NEVERTHELESS WE ARE STILL COMMITTED TO BRINGING YOU THE MOST IMPORTANT STORIES AFFECTING OUR COMMUNITY.

TONIGHT WE'RE EXPLORING THE SPIRITUAL ASPECTS OF OUR CURRENT CRISIS.

TO HELP US DO THAT, JOIN BID RABBI MARK WILDS, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF THE MANHATTAN JEWISH EXCHANGE.

WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

ONE OF YOUR VIDEOS LAST WEEK YOU SAID THAT ACCORDING TO THE TALMUD, BEFORE GOD SENDS A DISEASE, HE SENDS A REMEDY.

WHAT REMEDY DID GOD SEND FOR THIS PANDEMIC?

THE REMEDY I WAS REFERRING TO, I DON'T BELIEVE THAT GOD ALWAYS SENDS COMPLETE REMEDY BUT PARTIAL.

COMPLETE WOULD BE VACCINE AND BE DONE WITH THIS WHOLE THING.

PARTIAL REMEDY I BELIEVE IS THE TECHNOLOGY THAT WE'RE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF RIGHT HERE TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION.

CAN YOU IMAGINE IF THIS HAPPENED 20 YEARS AGO?

BEFORE THERE WAS FACETIME AND ZOOM AND FACEBOOK AND FACEBOOK LIVE?

THE SOCIAL ISOLATION THAT WE HAVE TO GO THROUGH RIGHT NOW IN ORDER TO KEEP THIS -- CONTAIN THIS DISEASE WOULD BE SO PAINFUL EMOTIONALLY.

IT IS PAINFUL ALREADY.

BUT AT LEAST WE CAN SEE EACH OTHER, STAY IN TOUCH, CONTINUE.

I HAVE KIDS AT HOME IN SCHOOL CONTINUING TO STUDY AND LEARN.

20 YEARS AGO, IF ALL THE SCHOOLS WERE CLOSED AS THEY ARE NOW, OUR KIDS WOULD BE SITTING AROUND NOT STUDYING AT ALL.

WE HAVE TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTINUE TO GROW AND LEARN AND BE CONNECTED WITH EACH OTHER THROUGH TECHNOLOGY.

IT'S NOT THE SAME AS THE HUMAN TOUCH AND TO BE IN PERSON, BUT IT IS SOMETHING VERY, VERY IMPORTANT, TO BE GRATEFUL FOR.

RABBI, WE'VE TALKED ABOUT THIS IN THE PAST, AT MOMENTS LIKE THIS, MANY PEOPLE WILL TEND TO REACH OUT TO GOD, GET CLOSER TO GOD TO FIND A CERTAIN DEGREE OF CONSOLATION.

OTHER PEOPLE WILL ASK HOW CAN ANYONE BELIEVE IN ALL-POWERFUL BENEVOLENT GOD WHEN MINDNLESS EVENT LOOKING THIS HAPPENS CAUSING DEATH AND DESTRUCTION.

WHAT'S YOUR ANSWER?

YOU'VE ASKED ME THAT BEFORE.

I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU CANNOT BELIEVE IN ALL-POWERFUL GOD AFTER WHAT WE'RE EXPERIENCING.

WE CAN'T EVEN SEE THIS VIRUS, IT'S MICROSCOPIC, AND CAUSING THE WORLD'S ECONOMY TO PLUMMET, PUTTING THE WHOLE WORLD INTO DISARRAY.

SOMETHING WE CAN'T EVEN SEE.

IF THAT'S NOT AN INDICATION OF SOME GREATER FORCE IN THE WORLD, I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS.

YOUR OTHER QUESTION IS LEGITIMATE.

WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.

GIVE YOU SAME ANSWER AS LAST TIME, THAT'S ABOVE MY PAY GRADE, I DON'T BELIEVE WE MORTALS WITH OUR LIMITED AND FINITE MINDS CAN UNDERSTAND THE INFINITE WAYS OF THE CREATOR.

WE JUST DON'T HAVE THE ABILITY TO BE ABLE TO PERCEIVE AND UNDERSTAND AND REALLY ANSWER A VERY LEGITIMATE QUESTION WE BELIEVE ACCORDING TO OUR TRADITION MOSES THE GREATEST JEWISH PROPHET ASKED GOD HIMSELF, WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.

WE BELIEVE THERE'S A PLAN AND EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON BUT OUR ANSWER FOR THAT QUESTION IS NEVER WHY, IT'S ALWAYS WHAT.

WHAT DO WE DO WITH THIS SITUATION?

WHY IS AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY, I DON'T KNOW.

IF YOU GOT SOMEBODY WHO CAN GIVE ME THE ANSWER, I'M WILLING TO LISTEN.

BUT WHAT CAN WE DO WITH THIS SITUATION?

HOW CAN WE GROW FROM BEING SOCIALLY DISTANCED FROM OTHERS?

OR WATCHING OUR LOVED ONES GOING THROUGH THIS DIFFICULT THING, WHAT ARE WE BEING ASKED TO DO FOR OTHER PEOPLE.

I THINK THAT'S A QUESTION WE SHOULD BE ASKING OURSELVES, NOT WHY, BECAUSE I REALLY DON'T KNOW, HUMBLY.

BUT WHAT, I CAN GIVE YOU A COUPLE OF ANSWERS TO THAT.

SO THE MANHATTAN JEWISH EXPERIENCE IS VERY ACTIVE AND PUBLIC MINISTRY, RIGHT?

SO HOW ARE YOU CONDUCTING YOUR ACTIVITIES AT A MOMENT LIKE THIS, UNDER THE CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES?

YEAH.

I DON'T REMEMBER, I'M DOING THIS OVER 20 YEARS, DON'T REMEMBER EVER BEING THIS BUSY AND I WORK HARD.

WE'RE WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK, ENTIRE STAFF.

WE'VE JUST GOT EVERYTHING ONLINE.

WE HAVE A MILLENNIAL KIND OF POPULATION, LOT OF OUR CONGREGANTS ARE VERY COMFORTABLE ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM AND ZOOM.

WE HAVE CLASSES LITERALLY EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK.

SERIOUS CLASSES ABOUT JEWISH PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY, DISCUSSION GROUPS AND SEMINARS AND LIGHTER THINGS.

HAD A COOKING CLASS LAST NIGHT AND IN ABOUT HALF HOUR GOING TO GO ON FACEBOOK LIVE TO DO A WELCOMING IN THE PRAYER SERVICE.

WHEN SHABBAT IS OVER, HAVE A MUSICAL.

DOING AS MUCH AS WE CAN ONLINE AND TRYING TO KEEP OUR STUDENTS AND PARTICIPANTS ENGAGED.

WHEN WE GET TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS VIRUS, SOME THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN.

WHAT ARE THINGS YOU HOPE WE DON'T LOSE?

AND WHAT ARE THINGS THAT YOU HOPE WE WON'T SEE AGAIN?

ONE THING, FEELINGS WE HAVE FOR EACH OTHER.

I'M HOPING AND BEGINNING TO SEE THIS A LITTLE, WE START APPRECIATING EACH OTHER'S COMPANY A LITTLE MORE AS WE HAVE TO SOCIALLY DISTANCE OURSELVES FROM ONE ANOTHER.

TO START -- STOP EXCUSE ME TAKING FOR GRANTED EACH OTHER AND BEING SO DISMISSIVE OF EACH OTHER'S POINT OF VIEW AND TO UNDERSTAND THE COMMON HUMANITY THAT UNDERLIES EACH OF US.

WE'VE BECOME SO PARTISAN AND DIVISIVE AND DISUNIFIED, LIBERALS, CONSERVATIVES, REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS, THIS VIRUS IS ATTACKING EVERYBODY.

DOESN'T DISTINGUISH IDEOLOGY.

WE SHOULD TAKE SOMETHING FROM THAT.

WE SHOULD REALIZE WE'RE ALL GOD'S CREATIONS, CREATED IN IMAGE OF GOD, ALL WANT BASICALLY THE SAME THINGS IN LIFE.

WANT HAPPINESS, MEANING AND PURPOSE.

OF COURSE WE HAVE DIFFERENT WAYS OF DOING THAT BUT PERHAPS, JUST PERHAPS THIS EXPERIENCE CAN REMIND US OF OUR COMMONALITY, OUR HUMANITY.

NEXT TIME WE GET INTO FIGHT WITH OPPONENTS, DEMOCRAT VERSUS REPUBLICAN OR LIBERAL VERSUS CONSERVATIVE WE'LL RESPECT EACH OTHER A LITTLE MORE.

IT'S OKAY TO ARGUE, EVEN DISRESPECT A POINT OF VIEW BUT NOT THE OTHER PERSON.

IF JUDAISM STANDS FOR ANYTHING, LOT OF BOOKS BEHIND ME, TALMUD IS FILLED WITH DIFFERENCES OF OPINION.

TWO JEWS, THREE OPINIONS THEY SAY.

THAT'S NEVER GOING TO CHANGE.

AND WE DON'T NEED THAT TO CHANGE.

THAT'S WHAT MAKES LIFE WORTH LIVING AND INTERESTING.

WE HAVE A PLURALITY OF VIEWS.

QUESTION IS CAN WE RESPECT EACH OTHER AND CAN WE WORK TOGETHER TO SOLVE REAL PROBLEMS.

AND WE NEED TO DO THAT WITH CORONA.

IF WE CAN WORK TOGETHER AND DO THAT NOW, MAYBE WHEN THIS ENDS, PLEASE GOD, SOON, AND DUST SETTLES, WE'LL BE IN BETTER PLACE WITH EACH OTHER TO SOLVE OTHER PROBLEMS IN MUCH MORE DIGNIFIED AND RESPECTFUL WAY.

DO YOU SEE ANY SIGNS OF THAT ALREADY HAPPENING?

COMING TOGETHER INSTEAD OF DIVISION WE'VE SEEN LAST SIX YEARS AT LEAST?

SEEING IT WITH YOUNG PEOPLE.

MANHATTAN JEWISH EXPERIENCE IS REALLY FOR 20s AND 30s.

LOT HAVE BECOME DISILLUSIONED WITH POLITICAL PROCESS, MORE ABOUT WHO IS RIGHT AND WRONG AS OPPOSED TO HOW DO WE GET THIS DONE, SOLVE THIS, ROLL UP SLEEVES AND WORK TOGETHER.

FEELING IN LAST TEN DAYS, MAYBE BECAUSE MILLENNIALS ARE A LITTLE -- ON THEIR OWN.

I'M BEGINNING TO SEE THAT.

NOT ON TV, NO.

SEEING THE SAME FINGER POINTING.

IT'S POINTLESS, UNPRODUCTIVE AND OUR POLITICIANS AND LEADERS SHOULD KNOW IT'S TURNING OFF A WHOLE GENERATION TO POLITICS AND GETTING INVOLVED.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU FEAR MIGHT RESULT FROM THIS EXPERIENCE THAT WE'RE LIVING THROUGH?

I'M WORRIED ABOUT THE ECONOMIC.

PEOPLE AFFLICTED BY CORONA OF COURSE THAT'S GREATEST FEAR, MONEY DOESN'T COME INTO THE PICTURE TALKING ABOUT HEALTH.

NUMBER ONE FEAR WE'RE GOING TO GOD FORBID LOSE PEOPLE AS WE ARE ALL OVER THE WORLD TO THIS TERRIBLE VIRUS.

BUT NERVOUSNESS ALSO EXTENDS TO AFTER, PLEASE GOD, THIS VIRUS IS OVER THERE WILL BE A LOT OF FINGER POINTING.

SOMETIMES PEOPLE POINTING FINGER MIGHT BE RIGHT, OTHER PERSON WAS WRONG, BUT DOESN'T MATTER.

IT'S NOT HELPING ANYONE, NOT BRINGING US CLOSER TO SOLUTION.

WE HAVE TO STOP BLAMING AND WORKING TOGETHER.

THAT MEANS PEOPLE WHO RADICALLY DIFFER FROM ONE ANOTHER ON POINT OF VIEW OF FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES HAVE TO SAY I STILL RESPECT YOU, GOING TO LOOK AT YOU, WORK TOGETHER TO FIX IT.

WHAT ABOUT THE BELIEF WE TENDED TO HAVE UNTIL MAYBE A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO WE WERE FUNDAMENTALLY IN CONTROL OF OUR LIVES?

DO YOU THINK THIS HAS MADE IT CLEAR THIS IS NOT THE CASE?

MAYBE THAT'S A GOOD THING?

YOU KNOW, IT DOESN'T FEEL GOOD WHEN YOU'RE EXPERIENCING A LACK OF CONTROL IN YOUR LIFE.

NOBODY LIKES TO FEEL THAT, DON'T WISH THAT ON ANYONE.

BUT ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL TEACHINGS OF ALL FAITH SYSTEMS I THINK IS THERE IS A GREATER FORCE THAN OURSELVES.

DOESN'T MEAN WE HAVE TO TOTALLY SUBMIT OURSELVES TO IT.

JUDAISM, WE PARTNER WITH GOD TO MAKE THE COMMON GOOD.

ADAM TO HARNESS THE FORCES OF NATURE.

TO CREATE HOSPITALS AND FIGHT DISEASE IS OUR GOAL AS HUMAN BEINGS BUT ALSO SHOULD BE HUMBLE AND RECOGNIZE WE'RE MORE THE END-ALL/BE-ALL, WE'RE NOT CREATOR, WE'RE CREATION.

IF THIS DOESN'T HUMBLE YOU, SOMETHING YOU CAN'T EVEN SEE CAN BRING THE WHOLE WORLD TO ITS KNEES, THAT DOESN'T GIVE US A SENSE OF SOMETHING OUT THERE THAT IS BEYOND US, THAT WE DON'T HAVE CONTROL OVER AND PERHAPS CAN INFLUENCE THE WAY WE ACT TOWARDS EACH OTHER.

WE DON'T KNOW EVERYBODY, SHOULDN'T WALK AROUND WITH ARROGANCE.

HUMILITY IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT TRAITS FOR RELIGIOUS PERSONALITY.

SHARE WITH ANYONE, WHETHER CONSIDER THEMSELF A PERSON OF FAITH OR NOT, BEING HUMBLE AND MODEST IS VERY IMPORTANT.

IF THIS DOESN'T HUMBLE US --

WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO END IT THERE.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

ALWAYS A GREAT PLEASURE TO TALK TO YOU.

PLEASURE.

STAY SAFE, PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING, WASH YOUR HANDS, LISTEN TO THE CDC, THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT.

WE NEED -- ONLY WAY WE'RE GOING TO LICK THIS THING IS TOGETHER.

BE HEALTHY AND GOD BLESS YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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