who will lead?

Day 32. The pressure to a return to “normalcy” is building.

The economic consequences resulting from the drastic steps taken to protect the public’s health are enormous and increasing daily. More and more businesses are concerned with how long they can hold on and millions more Americans are being furloughed or loosing their jobs daily. It goes without saying – everyone will agree – the sooner that America can get back to work the better. But just repeatedly announcing, as President Trump does daily, an arbitrarily selected date by which the country will somehow miraculously return to work, with no specific, thoughtful plan of action based on a calculated and calibrated risk/benefit analysis, is not only not constructive, it is downright dangerous.

I think about this in very personal terms as I read newspaper reports about Trump, about governors who say individuals should make their own decisions (as if the corona virus does not spread by contact), and about protesters rallying against stay at home orders . After two months of working remotely and staying at home I, for one, do not want to be forced to risk my health and the health of my family and co-workers because the reentry plan was ill conceived, directed by those who believe the “cure is worse than the disease”, or the result of pressure by one’s political base. Those who profess a willingness to risk their own health should not be in a position to force their views on others. Rather, public health officials, infectious disease scientists ,and economists should be the professionals providing the advice, designing the plan, and educating the decision makers. Uneducated gut instincts are not enough.

The next few days and weeks will be critical. Will we be put at risk by those who simply talk a lot? Or will we be guided out of this crisis by those who carefully study and develop a plan of action? Our health and our economy depend on the answer to these questions.

Escaping (2)

In response to my blog post of this morning I received the following inspiring email which I am sharing with the permission of the writer.

You may know that my daughter is an ER nurse working the front line of this virus without ceasing to shelter in place.  She took the Covid-19 test yesterday and is awaiting the results.  She has, of course, had multiple instances of exposures.  Although I know that she has had exposure, I trust and believe that she is well and will be well.  We have been boosting her immune system for weeks and foremost we fully trust G-d for His promises on her life and His Grace and Mercy.

The picture below is very reflective of the place where many of us rest.  Holding on to faith/hope and perched looking for the beauty of life more abundantly.  As I rest on a hard, rough and jagged spot, I, too, choose to focus on the beauty of color and the vibrancy of life the and creativity it represents that is much greater than man.  Life may be different, approached differently … but all will be well and we will once again reunite with family, friends and colleagues!!

Remain encouraged because you are in a position of posturing encouragement to many.

escaping

Day 29. After a month of working from home remotely, limited non-virtual contact with friends and colleagues, and staying “put”, I must admit to going stir crazy. I know I intellectually that this is a marathon and not a sprint but from I can’t help but suffer from cabin fever. So I have started to escape – in the virtual sense, that is. So join me as I escape from this:

© Judah Lifschitz 2020

To some of my most favorite places in the desert where I am free of all of life’s stresses.

© Judah Lifschitz 2020

TOGETHER….together?

Day 28. The challenge of this pandemic has brought peoples of all types together in the fight to defeat the Covid-19 virus. For the vast majority of us our role in that battle is maintaining physical separation and distance one from another. Ironically, It has been separation that has brought us together. Every day we witness acts of unity and caring for one another that transcend the physical distance between us. The selfless dedication of health care workers the world over who risk their own health to save others is the most powerful demonstration of our coming together in this time of crisis. The daily balcony cheers for health care workers that have reverberated throughout the world are another example of how this newfound unity. The hundreds (maybe thousands) of uplifting videos on the internet and social media convey concern for others and are powerful messages of hope.

Indeed, today “alone” has taken on a new meaning. Today “alone” means “together”.

But what about when this pandemic ends; when we return to life as it was; when we go back to work and to our daily routines? Will “together mean “together”? Or will “together” once again mean “alone”?

Much has been written about how this pandemic will have brought fundamental changes to our lives and to the world. Will those changes include a new definition of “together”?

DISCIPLINE and patience

Day 27. The last few days, over which my community celebrated the first days of Passover, are indicative of the challenge inherent in a large population maintaining mass social distancing over weeks and months. It is only natural that the discipline required to sufficiently depress the Covid-19’s curve of infection through social distancing is and will continue to be more and more difficult to sustain as time goes on. Weeks under stay at home orders, beautiful spring weather, and the desire for “authentic” (vs. virtual) inter-personal interaction, naturally contribute to a certain laxity creeping in and thus risking any progress made to date in defeating the virus.

For example, my wife and I took several walks in our neighborhood over the holiday. We simply needed to “get out”. Not surprisingly, we found many others with the same idea. While most were careful to try and maintain social distancing as required, the sheer numbers of adults, teenagers and children outside, walking, playing, talking etc. made it way more challenging then when everyone is in their home. Obviously!

Of course this is natural. But if we want to see the end to all this sooner rather than later (who does not?) we need to help each other recharge our discipline; to resist complacency; to avoid “cutting corners”.

Until there is a vaccine only by staying “alone together” will we return to our normal lives. It is hard. And as time goes on it will get harder.

We need patience. We need discipline.

a covid-19 seder

Seder Table 2019
© Judah Lifschitz 2020

Covid -19 Seder © Judah Lifschitz 2020

Elijah’s Cup
© Judah Lifschitz 2020

Alone But Together

Day 23. The “Thanksgiving” of the Jewish calendar is the first night of Passover. It is the one time of the year when Jewish families and friends, regardless of their level of religiosity, gather together at the Seder which commemorates the Exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago. This year thousands of Seders all around the world will be celebrated alone, apart from loved ones.

There is a lesson to be learned from this year’s Seder night. “Alone” does not mean we are not “together”. The irony of the Covid-19 pandemic is that only if “together” we stay “alone” can the virus be defeated.

As we sit down to our lonely Seders tonight we should take note of this powerful lesson and take it with us.

Alone does not mean we are not together.

In this spirit enjoy the video which the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra issued in celebration of this year’s “stay at home” Passover holiday.

Man Plans…..

Day 22. There is an old Yiddish saying “Man plans and G-d laughs”. This so applies to my wife and I as we approach the start of the Passover holiday tomorrow evening.

Just a few weeks ago we were looking forward to hosting our entire immediate family for a celebration of our grandson Hillel’s bar mitzvah day. (He was born thirteen years ago on the first day of Passover). My ninety year old in laws, all of our children and grandchildren, my wife and I – all twenty of us – were going to spend the first days of the holiday at our home in celebration of Hillel’s big day. Hillel and his family live in St Louis and his “real” bar mitzvah celebration, at which he would chant the weekly Torah reading (he has been studying for a year), was to be celebrated a few short weeks after Passover, in early May, in St Louis. But the first days of Passover were to be a special family celebration of this major milestone in our grandson’s life.

The seder was going to be amazing. Four generations sitting at one table, reading and discussing the Hagadah as we fulfilled the commandment of recounting for the children the story of the Exodus and its eternal lessons. With a large group of twenty we were making plans to rent a tent, talking to kosher for Passover caterers, and making arrangements at our synagogue.

And then the corona virus changed everything.

Tomorrow night it will be just the two of us, my wife and I, who will sit down at our seder. My in laws will be alone in their New York condo. Our children, including our daughter who lives just a few blocks away, will each be in their homes celebrating alone.

And Hillel will have to wait until the pandemic is over to celebrate his bar mitzvah.

Man plans and G-d laughs.

The Washington Monument
© Judah Lifschitz 2020

Acts of Kindness

Day 21. Yesterday was stressful. Lots of concern about business. All last week we and other small businesses rushed to compile all the information needed to apply for the emergency PPP loans that Congress authorized as a key element of the “stimulus” (no…survival would be far more accurate) loans for small businesses. Only to find out over the weekend that many banks (ours included) did not start processing loans because of unresolved issues between the banks and the government. Every business person I spoke with yesterday expressed the same concerns – (i)they do not know if they can last through this crisis without the loan and (ii) they do not know if their application will be processed in time and before the funds run out. What were healthy, well run, established businesses just a few short weeks ago are now uncertain about their future and their very survival.

In the midst of all this stress, a client with whom I am very close, sent me a link to an uplifting video with a note that he wished he could figure out how to add it to my blog. The video was inspiring and lifted my spirits and I hope it lifts yours as well.

At 10 pm my cell phone rang. It was another client. Someone with whom I worked extensively a few years ago but not much since. We became friends and have stayed in touch but with our busy schedules have been unable to get together for even a cup of coffee. This client/friend called just to see how I was doing.Were we healthy? How were our kids doing? We spoke for a while about having to stay at home and agreed to face time regularly through the crisis.

Acts of kindness. So thoughtful. For a few moments on a high stress day I stopped worrying about the uncertain future and was reminded of how lucky I was to have good friends. How blessed I am to be connected to caring people. These people and these relationships are what will get me through this pandemic – come what may.