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COVID-19 Preparedness

March 27, 2020 | 2 Nisan 5780 

Dear Barrack Community, 

As most of you know, I am known for my special Mah Chadash? / What’s New? newspaper outfits. Students who stop into my office are always asked, Mah Chadash?/ What's New? in their classes?  Right now, everything is new.  We are all experiencing a new reality. Our children and grandchildren will tell stories of the spring of 2020, and, hopefully, those stories will include the patience, the resilience and, most importantly, the compassion we are all mustering in order to face these dark times. Hopefully, these values are not new for those of us in our Barrack community. So, Mah Chadash, what is new this week is that we have celebrated Rosh Chodesh Nisan. Rosh Chodesh is always a time of renewal. Just as the moon is made new again, on Rosh Chodesh there is a spiritual power present for us to begin again and transform our lives, and Rosh Chodesh Nisan is even more special.  

This month is called Chodesh Ha-Aviv, the month of spring. The name, Nisan, may be related to nitzan —”bud.” Even in these dark times, in Nisan we begin to see new life all around us.  For those of us who are lucky enough to be able to go for a walk on these beautiful spring days, we see nature transforming and we are able to experience the joy that brings. As I wrote last week in my Shabbat letter, so many of our parents and grandparents are healthcare providers.  For these professionals, their new normal consists of very little time out in the spring air.  

The resilience of the healthcare professionals in our community is extraordinary.  Earlier this week, one of our parent doctors, working around the clock in the ICU at one of our local hospitals, shared with me the need for protective masks.  While we were still in school,  before we actually started our new distance learning, with foresight, our Chief Operations and Development Officer, Alex Stroker, had ordered masks and latex gloves in case our community needed them. After hearing about this acute need, I retrieved the boxes of protective equipment from school and brought them to her home on behalf of our Barrack community.  I want to share her response (written a few days ago, when things were even less dire), which I think is a beautiful spiritual message for Shabbat:

“I cannot express to you how much I appreciate your donation of masks and gloves from Barrack. We have a definite shortage of masks at the hospital already, and it has added a tremendous amount of stress to our situation.  Yesterday and today we have seen a significant increase in cases, where now the majority of the patients we are taking care of on the regular hospital floors have COVID-19, and it has been a challenge to properly protect ourselves.  Due to our mask shortage, for the last two days I had to keep re-wearing the same mask all day and I felt I was contaminating myself.  These new masks will be a big help!  I will be sure to share them with my partners and fellows, and will also keep some in reserve for the very brave nurses that inspire me all day.  I will also hold on to the gloves in case we run out of those also.  Thank you again for your generosity. It means so much and this donation came at the perfect time!”

What else is new? Though our building is closed, our learning has continued. We have just launched our new webpage Barrack Connect as a resource for our school community during this transitional time. On this site, you will find our daily online schedules, virtual events, and enriching resources for physical health and wellness, Jewish life, arts & culture, technology, and opportunities for community involvement/hesed.  For our students, we continue to offer mindfulness and counseling as well as our college guidance services — all online, and these resources will continue to evolve. 

Please join us for our special virtual events this weekend:
Tonight, March 27 at 6:30 pm: a student-led Kabbalat Shabbat, and
Tomorrow, March 28 at 8:20 pm: a joint Havdalah Hangout with Golda Och Academy,  students from both schools will share words of inspiration as we usher in the new week.

As I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom, I want to share something I heard a Barrack parent, Rabbi Eric Yanoff, discuss this morning.  This week’s parasha, Vayikra, along with the upcoming ones, deals with Korbanot/sacrifices. If you look at the Hebrew word Korban/Sacrifice/ קרבן  and then look at the Hebrew word Karov/Close /קרוב — you see the same letters.  In Biblical times, the ritual of sacrifice and even the smoke of the sacrifices drew the people together and drew them closer to G-d.  In our new normal, we are asked to make different kinds of sacrifices.  Right now, we cannot draw close together but we are all blessed to have each other and to have the hearts and ability to continue to help one another and lift each other up during this incredible time.   

Wishing you and your families, a safe and healthy Shabbat. 

.שבת שלום


Sharon P. Levin
Head of School