These are strange days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Dave Snyder

These are strange days. If you are in good health and wealth, and able to work remotely, you have the luxury to be aware of massive social dislocation as our collective, embodied life shuts down. You may feel, if you let yourself feel, in waves, the tedium of being idled, the dread at the silent spread and deadly toll of the virus day by day, and the anger at our federal government’s mismanagement of pandemic preparation.

If you are poor, or elderly or immunocompromised; if you live in fear of your partner; or if you are undocumented; if you are a person of color already unable to take a full breath from the weight of racism that haunts our health, financial, educational and criminal justice systems; or if you struggle with mental health; or if you are homeless, or detained or incarcerated, then you know your life is even more immediately at risk.

And if you are a health worker on the front lines of treating those afflicted by Covid-19, or a worker whose labor keeps the lifeblood of food and basic goods flowing from field to store to plate, I can only imagine how hollow the public applause and praise must feel, as you plead for basic protections, physical and economic.

So it feels indulgent to share the story of my family’s decision to cancel our son’s Bar Mitzvah the day before he was to lead Shabbat services at our synagogue, Shir Tikvah, as Covid-19 and the economic repercussions of the shutdown began to engulf our country. Even our attempts to make ethical decisions, like honoring our contract with Union Hmong Kitchen, and distributing the food to friends who were immunocompromised, are noteworthy but small compared to the enormous risks and sacrifices of our health workers in particular.

 

As a Jew, I am holding fast, during these strange, awful days, to the verses of Deuteronomy, that tell of Amalek, whose armies massacred the vulnerable stragglers who had fallen behind the mass exodus of Israelites from Egypt. If the Amalek of our day is Covid-19, then we in the United States are exquisitely, painfully open to the charge of having left so many of our neighbors and relatives so vulnerable to danger, infection, raw poverty and dislocation. May we respond, and rebuild, with wisdom and a commitment to justice.

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Dave’s story is part of Pollen’s “Are You OK?” initiative, a collection of stories, art, and virtual gatherings that documents how our collective community is processing and healing during the this global health and financial crisis. Check the collection regularly to hear from our creative community as we keep up with the changes and challenges before us. 


 

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Dave Snyder
Dave Snyder has spent nearly 25 years as a labor, campus, faith based and community organizer between Baltimore and the Twin Cities, and is currently the Organizing Director at Jewish Community Action (JCA). Dave was born and raised in Minneapolis, and his family was one of the founders of Shir Tikvah synagogue, where he currently serves as a religious school teacher and Board member. Dave has a BA in Philosophy from Goucher College and a Masters degree in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Dave and his wife Kristy have two adorable, mischievous children and live in Richfield with an ever growing menagerie of animals.
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