From the Editor: A Rosh Hashanah like no other

By Michael Regenstreif, Editor

With the arrival of Rosh Hashanah on Friday evening, we are completing an old year and beginning a new year in what has, and what continues to be, among the most challenging times that most of us have ever experienced.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is a vastly different place than it was last Rosh Hashanah. Our day-to-day lives have been upended by months of lockdown and restrictions, by too much illness, and by too much grief over the much too many lives lost to the virus.

A year ago, none of us knew that our everyday protocols would be so different. We wear masks to cover our noses and mouths, and we maintain tiny social bubbles. For more than six months, those of us who can do so have been working from home. The final three months of the last schoolyear were done online and the new schoolyear is taking place with previously unheard-of precautions and restrictions for many students and continues online for others. As an arts lover, I haven’t been to a theatre or concert venue in more than a half-year (and who knows when I next will) and sports fans haven’t been to arenas or stadiums to cheer their favourite teams in that same time. And those examples are just the tip of the iceberg of what is different.

As I write, in mid-September, the number of COVID-19 cases is rising at worrisome levels in Ottawa, in Ontario, and in Canada – and at shockingly alarming levels in many parts of the United States.

The COVID-19 situation in Israel has become so bad that Israelis will spend the High Holy Days period in a new lockdown due to the prevalence of new cases there. Israel, with a total population 60 per cent the size of Ontario’s, had 5,523 newly confirmed cases on September 15. By contrast, here in Ontario, we had 251 newly confirmed cases that same day – and we’re rightfully concerned about that.

In Ottawa’s Jewish community, agencies charged with caring for our most vulnerable – including Hillel Lodge, Tamir, Jewish Family Services and the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank – have done stellar jobs of caring for their clients in crisis circumstances these past six months and, I’ve no doubt, will continue to do so until the pandemic ends. These agencies and so many others in our community, receive crucially important financial support from the Jewish Federation of Ottawa Annual Campaign, which is now underway. Click here to see the 2021 Annual Campaign video.

It’s now been six months since the pandemic forced us to suspend the print edition of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin and we’ve received many phone calls and emails from loyal subscribers asking when we’ll be back in print. The answer is we don’t know yet. We will return as soon as possible – all subscriptions will be extended for the number of issues we missed printing – and in the meantime we will continue to publish new articles and columns here on our website. There is new content almost every business day, so do check back often. We announce all new articles and columns on social media, so like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

Typically, the High Holy Days mean our congregations are filled to capacity and many of us enjoy large gatherings of family and friends. This year is very different with some congregations holding services with limited attendance while others have moved their services to online platforms, and many family gatherings are much smaller than usual. Hopefully, by next year, we’ll be able to enjoy the holidays again as we would like to.

Please stay safe and well in these challenging times.

Shana Tova Umetuka.