When the pandemic hit hard in March and my children came home from college, activities were suspended, and my routine activities, centered largely around my gym, synagogue and office, were upended. Meanwhile, I’m sure I’m not alone in relishing the change of pace and time with family. Probably the biggest challenge for me was not being able to spin at LA Fitness, my exercise of choice, helping to balance my life. But I adjusted, just like everyone else. I used a friend’s spin bike at her home and then my boss sold me one, and I was set again. My routine was back on track.
I worked from home as I had done as a freelancer for so many years while raising my kids. This time, I worked so much harder as a member of a team adjusting to Zoom and Workplace meetings and setting up a virtual office at home with grown children in the vicinity. Oh, and I was no longer an empty nester, a positive outcome of COVID.
Synagogue services were online, and I enjoyed the later start and not being “on” as shul usher, 2 ½ hours of standing, dressing up or even being seen as I ate my breakfast and sipped my coffee incognito from “Birkot Hashachar” to “Adon Olam.”
Of course, I liked seeing the faces of the congregants on Zoom, including the rabbis in their home settings. But as the weeks passed and I saw congregants venturing out to join the service in the synagogue’s outdoor sanctuary and Zoom eventually transitioned into Facebook livestreaming, I started to miss being there “in the room where it happens” and serving in my minor role in the production.
So while I see myself as a comfortable introvert who thrives in the quiet of solitude, especially when I’m writing, I realized I also appreciate the comradery that comes from being part of something larger than myself.
And since I’m the synagogue’s main usher, serving in that post for several years, I asked if I could be of service for the b’nai mitzvah that began weekly last month, in the hopes I’d also be needed for the high holidays. I should mention my family and I have tested negative several times and I certainly understand the seriousness of the pandemic. Still, I’ve been a germaphobe long before COVID hit, so using sanitizer and not touching others is second nature to me. Now, at least, I’m not a germ freak any more than anyone else. Having that history, I feel confident in helping to ensure the health precautions are followed in my newly revised responsibility as usher.
Personally, while I savored the late wakeup and hiding behind a blank screen, often wearing shorts and a T-shirt with only my name to show my attendance, I appreciate the role I play and the people I see when I’m standing in the back of services at the sanctuary doors. I miss greeting congregants, catching up and seeing the service up close, not from behind a screen. (I feel the nodding heads here.) And if that means sacrificing a little sleep, having to put on a dress and sandals and a little makeup, so be it. I must be a people person after all. Perhaps we’ll all be more so once this pandemic unleashes its hold. A little friendlier and less suspicious, hiding behind our screens and masks, a little more loving to those we tried alternatively to avoid close contact with and longed to hug, to assure it’s gonna be all right and we are right here with ya. The dichotomy of a worldwide health scare. I echo the wishes of most of you dear readers hoping we’ll all be back in person soon to our favorite activities. I’ll be glad to hold the door for you when that day comes. May we all be inscribed for a year of health.
Roni Robbins is associate editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times.