Opinion | Providing Unity in a Time of Distance

Young hispanic man sits on the couch while protecting against COVID-19 coronavirus due to it’s virulency and impact on media and society
Daniel Lozano Gonzalez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Matt Shipon

Nothing makes my fiancée’s mother happier than dropping off some dinner that she cooked for us. Frankly, nothing makes me happier than having a home-cooked meal that I didn’t have to cook for myself. However, this past Shabbat when she stopped by to drop off food, things were very different.

As her mother got out of the car, she waved to us from the other side of the street. She walked toward us, stopped halfway, put the bag of food on the ground, and stepped back toward her car. My fiancée stepped forward to pick up the food and stepped back to our side of the street. This was not the usual hug-and-kiss embrace we were accustomed to.

We continued to talk from opposite sides of the street for a few minutes and to others walking by, the scene looked like we were just neighbors making small talk. As I walked inside and began to digest what had just happened, a wave of emotion washed over me. I realized that this was our new reality.

Although my fiancée and I did not have any symptoms of COVID-19, we could not be sure that we weren’t carrying the virus and we wanted to avoid passing it to her mother. Likewise, her mother didn’t want to potentially pass the virus to us. Ironically, keeping our distance was our way of showing our love for
one another.

While we were sad that we could not spend time with her mother, we recognized how fortunate we were to have our health and this hot meal on Shabbat during a time when many people in our community are sick or are unsure where their next meal may come from. This crisis has far-reaching impacts, medically, financially, emotionally, and we have yet to fully understand how this will change society moving forward.

However, what is absolutely clear is that we have people who are in desperate need today and we as a community need to rise to the occasion. Through my volunteer work over the years with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, I have seen firsthand the organization’s amazing ability to pool together and mobilize our community’s resources to help the most vulnerable.

At the beginning of this crisis, the Jewish Federation took immediate action to create an emergency fund, which has raised over $650,000 in just over a week. One hundred percent of the funds raised through this effort will go directly to pay for needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the Jewish Federation is coordinating with all Jewish-affiliated organizations, schools, synagogues and agencies in the region to assess and address the emerging needs.

Beyond donations to support this effort, the Jewish Federation and its partner agencies are also seeking volunteers. The Mitzvah Food Program, the Jewish Relief Agency and Kleinlife are in need of people to help with food deliveries. There is also a need for Phone-a-Friend volunteers to make calls to check in on older adults two to three times a week for companionship and to make sure they are doing OK. There are many other opportunities to help, which can be found by visiting jewishphilly.org and clicking on the COVID-19 banner at the top of the page.

In times like these when we are faced with a crisis on a global scale, we can feel very small and powerless. How can I help? How can my individual actions have any sort of impact? However, a contribution of your time and treasure to these causes will have a direct and measurable impact on the lives of the people the Jewish Federation is supporting during this crisis. As Dr. Seuss once said, “To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.”

Matt Shipon
Matt Shipon (Courtesy of Matt Shipon)

Matt Shipon is the NextGen board chair and a member of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s board of trustees. He is a managing partner at AaronRob Properties.

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