As rates of vaccination rise and the weather improves, some Jewish institutions in Cincinnati are returning to in-person events.
The Orthodox synagogues in Cincinnati opened for services last May. They started with services outdoors and last June moved to masked, socially distanced services indoors.
Over the last few months, with vaccination rates in the community soaring, these synagogues have opened up further. Congregation Zichron Eliezer and Golf Manor Synagogue now have sections of their sanctuaries that are mask-optional. Both retain areas where masks are mandatory. Both have also moved their classes back to the synagogue and now have restarted weekly kiddush on Shabbat and the third Sabbath meal on Shabbat in the late afternoon.
Although Congregation Sha’arei Torah still has a mandatory mask policy and has not started up weekly social events, it welcomed Yom HaAtzmaut with a barbecue.
Yom HaAtzmaut, celebrating Israel Independence Day, comes the day after Yom HaZikaron. Every year, Israel and the world Jewish community remember those who have been lost and honor those who continue to fight for the security of the State of Israel, and the safety of the Jewish people. The emotional transition from gratitude and remembrance to celebration and joy is not a coincidence. It is a collective recognition that what Israel has accomplished does not come without sacrifice. The history of Israel and the Jewish people is not without hardship. Celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut is a way of looking forward. The past must be remembered, but not dwelt upon.
In the face of fifty-degree weather and a strong chance of rain, this vital sense of both responsibility and celebration could be felt more than ever at Congregation Sha’arei Torah’s Yom HaAtzmaut event on Thursday, Apr. 15.
For some, the Yom HaAtzmaut celebration was the first time many families and friends had gathered together in over a year! The joy of the occasion was so widespread that masks, gloves, and a socially distanced seating arrangement were all but gentle reminders that precautions still needed to be taken. The absence of singing HaTikvah was one such precautionary measure, but went unnoticed as the chorus of children laughing and playing filled the air––many clutching bags of popcorn, cotton candy or slushies provided by Cincinnati’s chapter of NCSY teens.
The barbecue was catered by Ari Rubinoff, who supplied hot dogs, meat and vegetable burgers, various salads, fruit platters, desserts and more. Manning the grill were fan-favorites Sachi Klinkowitz and Michael Maltinsky. There was no shortage of food or compliments as attendees lined up for seconds and even thirds!
As members of the wider community gathered together, many in winter coats and scarves, one could see that this was not only a celebration of Israel’s independence, but a defining moment for our Jewish community. One elderly attendee emotionally shared, “I am finally vaccinated, and I am seeing friends and faces I have not seen in over a year,” with tears in her eyes. Her sentiment was shared by many as others sounded hopeful that this event was a turning point toward a brighter future.
Seventy-three years ago the young State of Israel faced enormous challenges to its very survival. The ‘Yoms’ — Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut — recognize the perseverance of her people, and celebrate what it has accomplished. As the Cincinnati Jewish community faces the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, a sliver of light is visible at the end of the tunnel. With the prayer of Jews over two millennia, next year in Jerusalem.