A former frummer, my life used to revolve around Shul, Shabbat meals, family and learning. Social interactions have also played a massive role in my life, and this hasn’t changed significantly.
I’ve slowly become less religious over the past decade, and my relationship to Judaism has changed, evolved and adapted. My identity is now expressed more commonly with non-religiously aligned communal organisations, such as the Jewish Vegetarian Society (JVS), which I chair, Limmud and being an admin for Socialists Against Antisemitism.
The constant in my life has been that social interactions have always played a major part of my Jewish expression. Looking back, four months into a pandemic and with the closure of Jewish community institutions I would have expected this to suffer.
The reality has been that my involvement has grown. Living in lockdown has given me more time to explore my interests. I no longer have a daily commute on the tube; that’s almost two extra hours a day. The biggest gain for me has probably come from Jewish life moving online.
As a techie, I’ve worked in technology for over twenty years; the move to life online has been a straightforward adaptation. Not only that, I can not attend multiple events in one evening. At lunchtimes, I’ve been watching my charity JVS run online interviews with great speakers. In the evenings, I’ve been engaged with JW3 sessions and JLM (Jewish Labour Movement) sessions. Apart from being three-letter acronyms, what all organisations have in common is that, rather than making me go to them, they all come into my home via Zoom.
The one-day online Limmud was a significant success with over 3,000 people attending around the world. Limmud Together UK Summer is online and the annual Limmud Festival in December will again be happening this year but assumed to be online.
The question for me is: when the world goes back to normal, and much of the activities go back to being location-based, will I be able to hold on to my increased engagement?
Perhaps this is an opportunity for Jewish communal organisation to think about retaining my renewed engagement by keeping up a high level of online activities.