photo of a GJEP student and volunteer sitting at a table together wearing masks

The Painful Choice We’re Facing

by Tamar Davis, CEO, Gateways

What a start to 2022 so far. My inbox has not been cheery; rather it’s been filled with dire emails about the current COVID surge, about the snowstorm, and numerous classroom and school closures because of either or both.

We haven’t been spared the COVID conundrum at Gateways either — this week felt like a throwback to the earlier days of this drawn-out pandemic, when we had to make difficult decisions about how to continue serving the children we cherish so dearly. The slight saving grace this time around was that we were discussing cancelling one Sunday session of our weekly Jewish education program, and not an entire year of Sundays, in which our students and teen volunteers come together to learn joyously about our Jewish traditions. As we were weighing the factors in our decision to cancel this Sunday’s session, the conversation came to an all-too-familiar debate about prioritizing masking or education. I was particularly struck by the fact that this is a choice we are now faced with time and again as we navigate how to ensure a safe and accessible learning environment for everyone.

The Torah mandates pikuach nefesh, saving lives. It also mandates v’shenantem l’vanechah, to teach your children. These days, it can feel like we are constantly needing to make a painful choice between these two deep and basic tenets of our Jewish faith. So we continue to pivot, to offer virtual educational opportunities, while we plan yet again for a safe return to in-person learning where we don’t find ourselves needing to compromise one cherished value over another.

We have another saying in our Jewish tradition for thanking those who have done a good deed: may you go mi’chayil l’chayil, from strength to strength. Today, I say to all of us as we look ahead to this next year, may we all continue to go mi’chayil l’chayil.

Shabbat shalom,

Signature of Tamar Davis