Here are 19 Jewish Quotes To Strengthen Ourselves and Our Communities During Social Distancing. One of the most important facets of Jewish life is the lived experience of being in Jewish community. Feeling a part of a Jewish community is a strong emotional experience. It makes us feel that we belong, at home, trusting and trusted, and supported.
A Disruption In Jewish Community Life
The reality of social distancing for the sake of public health means that our Jewish community and physical togetherness has been disrupted. This disruption feels challenging for all of us individually and for our Jewish community at large.
Events and holidays now take place over Zoom rather than in the synagogue, and Shabbat dinner gatherings are postponed until another time. Our Jewish experience is more alone and perhaps more lonely than ever before in history. It can be grounding and comforting to use Jewish quotes to strengthen ourselves and reconnect with our community.
Need to Stay in Community
Traditional Jewish texts on community emphasize the need to stay in community and not isolate oneself, an important reminder during a time in which it is easy to disengage:
Do not separate yourself from the community, Do not trust in yourself until the day of your death, Do not judge your fellow man until you have reached his place. — Hillel, Pirkei Avot 2:4
One should never exclude himself from the collective. — Berakhot 49b:16
Two are better off than one, in that they have greater benefit from their earnings. For should they fall, one can raise the other; but woe betide him who is alone and falls with no companion to raise him! — Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
One who considers severing himself from the people must sever his soul from the source of its vitality. Therefore each individual Jew is greatly in need of the community. — Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook
Anyone who is distressed together with the community will merit seeing the consolation of the community. — Taanit 11a:8
Isolation has presented new challenges to Jewish community, as recognized by Jewish leaders both old and new:
The feeling of isolation is very destructive. It has the power to crush man’s body and spirit, silence his spiritual powers, and stop up the wellsprings of his inner creativity. — Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Religious experience, I strongly believe, is something that happens in a community… if Judaism is so intensely social, a Judaism that must navigate the social distancing imposed by coronavirus will be intensely diminished. — Daniel Mackler
Community is Vital
Yet this period of social distancing is also a reminder of how vital and important community is to our own mental/emotional and spiritual health and to Jewish life and experience. This gives us a chance to rethink what a community looks and feels like, and to seek out opportunities to engage with and invest in our communities in new ways.
Lived Jewish community is thick. We eat meals together, visit each other in sickness, sit together in sorrow and laugh together in joy. — Rabbi Joshua Ladon
Engaging with the system of mitzvot which draw us into community… has been practice for moments like these, when we need community the most. — Rabbi Joshua Ladon
What happens when our communal Jewish experiences take place not in the public square, but in our own homes, surrounded by our messy kitchens and our favorite artwork, flanked by our energetic children and our hairy, shirtless husbands? We are getting a taste of that right now. And it might just change everything about being Jewish. — Rabbi Micah Streiffer
The social-distancing we have all been compelled to undertake should become a tool of community-building and social-bonding. We must ensure that Jewish life isn’t enfeebled, but empowered. — Ronald S Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress
The imperative to nurture a strong, unified Jewish community grows exponentially in the face of the dangers surrounding us. Now is the hour for unity and harmony, for a renaissance of Jewish solidarity. — Ronald S Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress
Social distancing is not the only threat to Jewish community during this time; social and political divisions also threaten our communities. Yet Jewish texts and leaders call the community to stand together despite these differences:
If one… says, “Why should I trouble myself for the community? What’s in it for me to take part in their disputes? Why should I listen to their voices? I’m fine [without this],” this person destroys the world. — Midrash Tanhuma, Parshat Mishpatim 2
As a community, when we silence the voices we don’t like and marginalize the people asking the difficult questions, we all lose. — Rabbi Sharon Brous
So too, as a broad Jewish community, we are empowered to have a multiplicity of opinions and perspectives. If, like the Talmud, we can maintain respect for one another, we can celebrate the diversity of our opinions without it turning into a fight. — Rabbi Ari Sytner
Community Creation Through Action
Perhaps this is an opportunity to think about community as something we actively create through our actions, thoughts, and words. We can reach out to those in our community who are in need: we can pray for someone who is suffering, pick up the phone and call, write a letter, or drop off a basket of health giving food. These actions create a felt sense of community for the giver and receiver. This is the kind of community that not only keeps us from feeling alone, but gives us a sense of home and belonging.
The following Jewish quotes to strengthen ourselves and our communities during social distancing focus on community as something created by action.
Community is the human expression of Divine love. It is where I am valued simply for who I am, how I live and what I give to others. It is the place where they know my name. — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Community is society with a human face – the place where we know we’re not alone. — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Neither the individual nor the state is where we discover who we are and why… Beyond the most basic rules necessary for the maintenance of the most rudimentary social order, morality lives in communities and the traditions which sustain them. — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
And all who labor with the community, should labor with them for the sake [of] Heaven, for the merit of their forefathers sustains them. — Pirkei Avot 2:2
Your Turn: Do you agree that Jewish quotes can strengthen ourselves. Can you share a favorite Jewish quote to strengthen ourselves and our communities? Please write it in the comments section below.