I began this Passover message thinking I’d write about the positive things this challenging year of COVID-19 has taught us and the specific innovations, adaptations and behavior changes we might want to keep. Indeed, many, many good things have emerged from our plague year. Crisis is always a catalyst for innovation and transformation, and Atlanta rode that thrilling wave. We created dozens of socially distanced ways to serve. We unleashed unprecedented levels of generosity and kindness.
That’s all good, great even. But I am in the relationship business and I desperately miss the energy of being around people. Half a dozen people have joined the Federation team since we began working remotely. I’ve never met many of them, or any of our new donors, in person, and it tears me apart. I’m literally chomping at the bit to catch up with all of you.
So, I’ll leave the catalogue of COVID “keepers” to other writers. For Passover I want to lift up the paradox of covenant vs. freedom, and the tension that exists between the two. As vaccines allow us to take our first tender steps of emergence from the narrow place of hand sanitizers, 6 feet apart and social pods, we will embrace family members we haven’t touched in a year! We are like a reborn people. Giddy with our newfound freedom, we rush back to what is familiar. Remember how the Jewish people, just weeks after the parting of the Red Sea, built the golden calf.
Our post-COVID liberation comes with covenantal responsibility to each other and the world. Freedom may look like a big fat hug, but for a while it will likely be a hug with a face mask. Let us rejoice in our redemptive freedom but never forget that we were charged to be a light unto the nations with a unique mission to repair the world.
Eric M. Robbins is the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.