Seven Ways to Stay Connected with Judaism While Life Is on Hold

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Seven Ways to Stay Connected with Judaism While Life Is on Hold By Emilie Tackett photo by Molly Voit

Are you bored? Do you want something to do besides rewatching the same shows on Netflix? Check out this list of ways to engage with Jewish life in your own way. Whether it’s a YouTube video about this week’s Torah portion or bringing challah to a neighbor, there are plenty of ways to stay connected—for as long as it takes until life returns to normal.

1. Communicate

One of the hardest parts about quarantine is not being able to get together with your mentors, rabbis, and Jewish friends in person. Through this experience, we have learned how to connect with others in new and modern ways. Keep communication lines open. FaceTime that friend you haven’t talked to in a month, add that girl back on Snapchat from November. No matter what, it is important to find ways to stay feel close to others from the comfort of your own home.

2. Go to an Online Service

As Jews, a lot of our prayers and activities require a group. Even though pikuach nefesh (saving a life) overrides all, it is important to retain a sense of community. By going to an online service, you can still have that sense of togetherness with the added bonus of wearing sweatpants without anyone noticing. You can also check out services in other communities, finding different traditions and styles.

3. Watch or Read Jewish/Israeli TV, YouTube, or Books

Whether it’s a YouTube video about this week’s parsha (Torah portion), a new book, or an Israeli TV show, find something Jewish to watch. An important Jewish value is to keep learning. So even though you feel stuck in your house, keep your brain active in a Jewish way. Here are some suggestions.

TV Shows:

  • Unorthodox: An Israeli miniseries on Netflix based on the book by Deborah Feldman and her rejection of her Orthodox past.
  • Shtisel: An Israeli soap opera on Netflix, Shtisel is a family drama in a small Jerusalem neighborhood. There are a few seasons, and you will find yourself wanting to binge the entire series.
  • Srugim: A soap opera-like Israeli drama focused on the religious life of a group of singles living in Jerusalem, available on Amazon.
  • Beauty and the Baker: A romantic comedy about the daily life of one of the richest women in Israel, currently on Netflix.

Books:

  • Color Me In by Natasha Díaz: Facing your identity as a biracial Jew.
  • Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz: A kid facing her own illnesses and teenage dating drama.
  • It’s a Whole Spiel: Love Latkes, and Other Stories by Catherine Locke and Laura Silverman, with a foreword by Mayim Bialik: Multiple hilarious stories about Jewish camp, falling in loe, and adventure.

Jewish YouTube Channels

  • Bim Bam: Informational videos on all things Jewish. Including parsha stories, fun songs, and so much more.
  • My Jewish Learning: Videos that address all aspects of Jewish values ranging from “why do Jews eat cheesecake on Shavuot” to fun ways to learn your prayers.
  • Maccabeats: A music group that takes traditional pop songs and adds a Jewish twist.
  • Six13Sings: An a cappella group that performs original songs for Jewish holidays and more.

4. Listen to a Jewish Podcast 

Podcasts can be great for multitasking—like taking a walk or exercising and listening at the same time. Here are some suggestions:

  • Unorthodox: Every week the three hosts—Mark, Stephanie, and Liel—banter back and forth about Israeli and American politics, culture, and more. With smart interviews and commentary, this is a must-listen.
  • Parsha in Progress: Even if you don’t keep up with the weekly parsha, this podcast will make you feel smart and in-the-know in just a few minutes, and it makes the Torah relevant to today.
  • Israel Story: Fresh stories about people and places in Israel, listening will make you feel like you are on the streets of that country.
  • The Branch: Stories about how Israelis and Arabs find spaces and situations to work together in Israel. Every week is a story of hope.
  • Intractable: To learn more about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, tune in for stories, interviews, history, personal narratives, and more.

5. Do Tikkun Olam 

    • While staying in your house is doing tikkun olam—or helping others— by not spreading germs, there are other ways to help others as well.
  • Make masks: How are your sewing skills? This is a great time to learn and make masks for those in need.
  • Create cards or make a phone call to older members of the Jewish community. My youth group created cards to send out to those who weren’t feeling well. There are many ways through calling or Zoom that you can connect with those in your community.
  • Make and deliver challah or other treats: I enjoy making challah every week to give to my elderly neighbors and help fill their Shabbos with something special.

6. Connect with Your Local Synagogue or Youth Group 

Many synagogues have Zoom sessions and other resources. It’s also fun to check out synagogues from all over the world. See if there is a USY, NCSY, BBYO or other youth group chapter. They all have online programming.

7. Disconnect

    While every day now feels a bit like Shabbat, it’s a good time to reflect in a different way.

  • Make a big family dinner
  • Light candles
  • Get out a puzzle
  • Read a book
  • Go for a walk

Even though you may feel like you are stuck at home with nothing to do, there is always something going on online or ways you can make the world a bit brighter. COVID-19 might stop us from seeing each other face-to-face, but there are so many ways to still stay connected. Try some of these fun suggestions.

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Emilie Tackett is an 11th grader at Tates Creek High School in Lexington, KY. She enjoys FaceTiming her USY friends from all over the country and playing lacrosse and guitar. She is also the president of her youth group and loves to bake challah.
Accompanying photo: “William Blake” by Molly Voit