Coronavirus came at a time when our community was scattered around the world for the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar: The lunar new year. This year is the year of the rat, and the rat is most admired for its adaptability. In this spirit, we worked together to adapt to the “new normal” of a China on lockdown and all the community members—and residents—scattered across the globe.
At one point, the residents were on four continents (Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America) with our community even further flung.
We took this as an opportunity—engage our members across the different time zones through a progressive series of Shabbat candle lightings from the beaches of South East Asia to the San Francisco Bay.
We showcased how we celebrate Shabbat when we are outside of our community to our community through a call out for Shabbat photos:
We checked in—checked in individually and checked in often.
We created an Instagram! Which may be common practice for many houses outside of China, but behind the great firewall, it often seemed a useless tool to support our community. But during this time, we wanted to utilize every way to maintain our connections.
Four weeks after the Chinese New Year holiday was intended to be over, one resident returned to a city under a new normal to find community members who had ridden out the quarantine and were eager to gather. Facemasks in hand, we had 14 MoHo community members new and old gather for a Shabbat dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.
Now with two residents some core members in Shanghai we are hosting a small-scale Purim party—keeping our tradition alive (it is the fourth year in a row we have collaborated in hosting the annual event). While are slowly starting to return to our “in-person events,” other residents are continuing to focus on digital engagement through a weekly series of Mussar Mondays, gathering content for the Instagram by highlighting members, and continuing to reach out even just to say a quick “Chag Sameach!”
While we are still living under the local regulation of “no guests,” we are eagerly awaiting the moment we can have our home filled with the joy and laughter of our community. In the meanwhile, WeChat video calls, Zoom, and our WeChat group (which mimics a Facebook group for many communities) will continue to mirror the lively joy we have built within these walls, and we will gather outside as often as is feasible.
Trees are in bloom and the return of spring is imminent, as is a return to a semblance of normalcy. We know that as our time living with the social responsibility of complying to regulations for the sake of public health is winding down, the opposite is happening in the rest of the world. We hope that we can be both a support and a model as to how to continue to engage community through this time. We have supplied facemasks, sent treats to those in quarantine and continued to be a presence in peoples’ lives so that it doesn’t feel like everything is “shut down.”
The most important lesson is that this will test the bonds of your community—but remember that we are leaders, and if we can lead by example, and lead with empathy, all of our communities will get through this time.
With love in the time of COVID-19,
Hannah Maia, Casey, Jeremy, and Daniel