A Passover Message from Terri Bonoff

A Passover Message from Terri Bonoff

Read community insights, advice and perspectives during Passover.

Passover 2021 appears as a beacon of light; a beacon of hope. There is sorrow and grief in the wake of 2020. There are stories of strength, love and resilience, and much to be grateful for.

I have not seen my oldest son Joe since last March. He just got the vaccine. I recently got mine. He and his girlfriend are moving from D.C. to LA, where his brother and sister-in-law (my son and daughter-in-law) live. I have the incredibly good fortune to be travel buddy for Joe and his golden retriever Scout for the cross-country drive. I am jumping for joy at the thought of spending these days together for this long trek, ending in California, where I can be with them all. This is FREEDOM! I can taste and smell it!

We used to fly back to Minnesota at least monthly to see family, including both of my parents, ages 86 and 89. We stopped flying when the cases spiked right after Yom Kippur. I finally saw them a week ago. They got the vaccines. This is FREEDOM!

My executive assistant Natalie and I walked through the halls of JF&CS yesterday planning for the return of the staff in a hybrid function. It felt like we were waking up after a century of slumber. It was poignantly eerie. This is FREEDOM!

We are having an on-site vaccination clinic on April 1 at our Independence Works building where our IDDS [Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services} clients and their families can get the vaccine. We plan to reopen our day program on June 1. Their social isolation will come to an end. This is FREEDOM.

Passover tells the story of the exodus from Egypt — the escape from bondage. We know that during this pandemic many lives have not been spared. We have lost over 520,000. They are beloved sons, daughters, parents, grandparents, friends and community members. With the medical breakthrough of vaccines and the imperative to get these shots in arms, we are seeing the beginning of an awakening. The birds are chirping, the flowers are beginning to bloom, and we are gingerly emerging from our cocoons. This blessing is coupled with the somber understanding of all that has been lost. We have all felt grief and sorrow.

One can’t help but think of the plagues as we reflect on the past year: the civil unrest, the deep and hurtful divisions among people, the sickness, the variants and yet amid it all, the hope. The human spirit yearns for freedom and love. A global will emerged to extinguish this pandemic. Scientists supported by government policies and resources created a worldwide solution. The vaccine brings the promise of a return to health. The ability to gather with those we love, to sleep knowing the threat of this virus is diminishing, waking with the sense that our borders and our countries will once again be open—all of this is FREEDOM.

On this Passover as we ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” one answer may just be: “On this night we are re-discovering what it is to be FREE.”

Terri Bonoff is the CEO of Jewish Family & Career Services.

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