By Lauren Garfield-Herrin, Special to the Jewish News
Crisis bring people together.
There is not one person whose life hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether directly or indirectly, the virus has touched the old and young, black and white, and male and female. It has been blind to boundaries.
While many have lived with fear, anxiety and sadness during these historic weeks, they also have lived with beauty, kindness and understanding. Young men and women have gone to the grocery store for elderly family members and neighbors, many have donated food and supplies to medical facilities and young children have drawn beautiful pictures with chalk on their driveways for people walking and driving by to enjoy.
Sadly, crisis bring people together.
Several weeks ago, upon learning that schools and businesses were closed and many events canceled, staff at the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) knew immediately they needed to create opportunities for people to come together as one, both within and outside of the Jewish community.
Last month, the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity, which is an initiative of JCRC/AJC and the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, hosted “An Imam, a Pastor and Rabbi Enter Zoom: How our communities are facing the coronavirus crisis.”
The event featured JCRC/AJC Executive Director Rabbi Asher Lopatin; Bishop Glenn Plummer, Bishop of Israel for the Church of God in Christ; and Imam Mohamed Almasmari of the Muslim Unity Center. It was moderated by Rabbi Marla Hornsten of Temple Israel. The clergy shared how their communities have been dealing with the crisis and what could be learned from it.
For Plummer, who has sadly lost colleagues and parishioners to the virus, the discussion illustrated for him how we are all facing the crisis together.
“It is fascinating to me that while all our communities, the Jewish, Muslim and Christians, have differences and divisions, we’re all in the same place right now,” Plummer said. “We had this call where … we were all in our homes, not at our distinctive houses of worship, and found ourselves in agreement. For me, that was a new and different place.”
Lopatin added, “It is a blessing that, even in the sadness and devastation of this pandemic, we can still find ways — new, powerful ways — of connecting and deepening relationships between the Jewish and broader communities, which give us all strength and hope.”
Proud of their strong relationship with the local Muslim community, JCRC/AJC recently launched the local council of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC), convened by AJC and the Islamic Society of North America in several cities throughout the country. Local members met over Zoom to discuss what the group could do to help those most affected by COVID-19.
During the meeting, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, a committee member and chair of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC), shared firsthand what he had seen while working in the ICU at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital. Within hours of the virus arriving in Michigan, he began seeing the desperation on the faces of doctors and nurses as they were forced to quickly ration supplies, wear inadequate gear and skip meals due to lack of time and room in the cafeteria. He immediately began an effort to collect donations to buy meals to send to different hospitals throughout the region.
After hearing Al-Hadidi’s stories, which unfortunately have become all too common throughout the country, the members of MJAC immediately committed to help by sending kosher and halal meals to front-line health care providers of all backgrounds.
“While millions of masks will be coming in a few weeks, essential workers need the moral support now. This is our way of showing appreciation to those taking the risk,” Al-Hadidi said.
Added Lopatin, “Together, we are united in our commitment to help doctors and health care providers in any way possible. This is what our communities coming together is all about.”
It also has been vital that the local Jewish community come together. Last month, JCRC/AJC, rabbis and cantors from seven Metropolitan Detroit Reform, Conservative and Orthodox congregations led a community-wide Havdalah on Zoom. Approximately 500 people on 220 screens took part.
To learn about upcoming programs and learning opportunities offered by JCRC/AJC and its partners, visit www.facebook.com/JCRCAJC. Lauren Garfield-Herrin is assistant director
of the JCRC/AJC.