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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In a show of unity amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, residents of Maitland Avenue and surrounding streets in Teaneck came together this past Friday afternoon to usher in Shabbat with shofar blowing and a song.

At exactly 6:48 p.m., the street came alive with the sound of the shofar and, after Mincha, the words of Yedid Nefesh from residents stationed outside their homes—this all in accordance with the current social distancing guidelines. Rabbi Yehuda Rosenbaum, who has a minyan on the street, brought the idea to fruition after it was suggested to him by a friend. He wanted this to serve as a reminder to the community that the virus may be taking away our ability to congregate in groups, but it can’t stop us from celebrating Shabbat together in other ways.

“Morty Rothberg was the one who really suggested it, and he got the idea first from an email within the community,” Rabbi Rosenbaum shared with The Jewish Link in an interview. “At first the idea was just for everyone to sing Yedid Nefesh together, but my nephew, Rabbi Danny Senter, said ‘Why don’t we do it like in Eretz Yisrael, where they have a shofar blowing at candle lighting?’ I thought it was a really great idea, and so I sent out an email to everyone on my email list and the response we got was really positive. And then we did it and it was incredible. Really, really incredible.”

It also made for a remarkable sight: all along the block families were gathered together, blowing their shofars and singing Yedid Nefesh as loud as they were able. For a few moments the stresses of the day felt like they had come to a halt.

“It raised the beauty of our Shabbos to such a high level, to know that we were all doing this together,” continued Rabbi Rosenbaum. “If you were in our area of Maitland at the time and looked out your window, the sight you would have seen would have just blown your mind. There were families and little kids blowing their shofars and singing as one. We couldn’t be physically close together, but this was still something special. It’s something that, for just a few moments, allowed us to be connected. We might be separated, but we’re still one people, and we’re all going through the same thing together.”

The coronavirus has been making waves across the entire world. With people learning to accept this new norm of living in isolation—not to mention keeping their children home from school—many are scared, worried, and in need of reassurance to help them through the day. For those people, shared Rabbi Rosenbaum, “I like to focus on the light side of things instead of the heavy stuff. It’s not easy, but there’s some reassurance to be found in the fact that we’re all in this together, that one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, God willing, this will be over and we’ll be able to resume our normal lives. But until then we need to be strong as a community and to do things that allow us to feel connected in some way. Because those connections can really help us through this. And when it’s over, I can’t wait to welcome everyone back to davening together in a minyan.”


Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com