The Opportunity within the Challenge
Hakhel and the Coronavirus Challenge – Call to Action
Hakhel believes in the resilience of the Intentional Community model, and in these challenging times offers support and training to community leaders as we discover together how to be a community whilst maintaining social distance.
On this page, you will find our advice for managing the transition from being a conventional Intentional Community to a new model that will strengthen the community in current times.
Please keep scrolling down for suggested action items, upcoming events, ideas for using technology to keep the community going, ideas for activities within the family and more!
A note from Aharon Ariel Lavi
The resilience of Jewish Intentional Communities
Towards the end of the Megillah, we read only a few days ago, it says the decree of the king which ultimately saved the Jews, was to give them the right to form a community to protect themselves: “The king has permitted the Jews of every city to assemble and fight for their lives” (Esther 8:11). “To assemble” means to gather as a community, and different variations of this word repeat themselves several more times.
The crisis which we are facing now, as a species, is indeed not of human origin but rather a force of nature or even an act of G-d. Strangely enough, the one thing it prevents us from doing is to actually gather as a community due to social distancing requirements.
As it seems, things are likely to get worse before they get better. In many countries the entire school system has shut down already, no flights in and out and the markets are diving. At Hakhel, we believe this is a crucial point in time for us to act as community leaders, this is our duty and privilege. In order to make it easier for all of us, we have compiled this online toolkit full of ideas on how to gather as a community while maintaining social distancing, how to support each other and how to redefine our social mission in light of this crisis. None of us would ever choose to be in this situation voluntarily, but once it hit us let’s think what can be the hidden opportunity here?
Just one point for thought: in 2008 the world experienced a different yet somewhat similar crisis, at least on the financial level. As many of you heard on the Israel trips, many Israeli organizations that relied on American philanthropy went bankrupt back then. However, not even one intentional community shut down, simply because these communities are life-long social frameworks. This proven resiliency was noticed by the government and institutional funders, which gave a huge boost to the communities in the aftermath of that crisis.
We will be updating this toolkit and adding more activities on a regular basis, including global webinars, Pesach preparation and more. Info will be shared on our website, Facebook group, Slack and WhatsApp channels. Please stay tuned and send your ideas so we can add them and share with everybody else!
March 29th, 8am EST – Global Hakhel preparation for Pesach!
April 2nd, 9pm CET – How to empower families and children? Webinar with Ruti Shalev
Our suggested checklist for community leadership:
As a starting point, let’s get the leadership core together.
Familiar structures provide comfort in unstable times, and your Hakhel advisor will be happy to facilitate the session (if you are a new community who has not been assigned an advisor yet, you can reach out to Aharon Ariel Lavi or Leah Palmer at email@example.com). In the meeting, we’ll ask ourselves the following questions:
Short term: How are we doing? How do we support our community in a time of social distancing? What can we expect from one another?
Medium term: What are the major challenges, and also the opportunities in this situation for the communities and the network? (for example, this is our opportunity to prove ourselves as a relevant and sustainable player in the local Jewish scene and beyond).
Long term: What will we be doing in the aftermath? What should be our long term strategy? How do we harness everybody towards this?
Then we can map out our assets and needs within the community and around us.
On a basic level, we need to ask our community “what can each one of us offer to the others?” and “what does each one need from the others?”. You can use this form as a template and share it with your community members online (please make sure to create your own copy before editing or sharing).
Based on the needs and assets you have mapped out, identify opportunities to support and/or collaborate with other communities. Look to other Jewish communities in the area, other faith groups and even to communities that are significantly different from yours.
Sometimes it can be necessary to help members think about what they need or can contribute. Reassure members that however trivial their suggestion may seem, that it may be useful to someone else. At the same time, identify subgroups within the community and their possible specific needs in the current situation. Talk your ideas over with people who are part of these sub-groups and think about finding solutions together.
Remember that feeling a need to “help the situation” in some way is a very real need, and the intentional community is in of itself an asset for resolving this need.
Yes, this is a time of extreme uncertainty and actually just because of that it is very important to create as much stability as we can, even if we know not everything we plan will actually work out. Members of your community will feel calmer and less isolated if they know there are regular community meetings that they can count on. Let’s ask ourselves what can Passover look like? How can we maintain online regular meetings? Can we find a way to celebrate Shabbat together? How can we redefine our social mission for the current times, and how can we implement it within the restrictions on social interactions? You can use this chart as a tool to organize your thoughts and turn them into a temporary work plan.
Assess our community’s infrastructure:
Do we have home addresses and phone numbers of all members? Collect contact information and share it on community platforms, making sure that everyone feels comfortable with their data being shared.
Create one central place for communal announcements (such as a “read only” community WhatsApp group or “broadcast” Telegram channel).
Make sure all members are in touch with someone, and that nobody is left out. Most importantly, think if there are members who are elderly or have disabilities? Check with them personally how they would like to be supported right now, and let them know that the community is happy to provide any support they need. Remember that their needs may change as the situation progresses.
In cases of quarantine or illness: establish a committee of non-isolated members who can support the others with groceries, pets, medication and children.
Establish a member of the community who members can reach out to confidentially if they feel uncomfortable asking for help in public channels.
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How to use technology to keep the community going
Most importantly: set up regular weekly to bi-weekly times for everybody to meet and share, choose a volunteer facilitator each time.
Make sure your online platforms are up and running and that everybody who needs to be there is there (Facebook group, Whatsapp group, Slack, Telegram, etc.).
Many other community building events can be held online, such as: Kiddush, Havdallah, Limmud, book clubs, movie clubs, trivia contests, blogs and more. Take advantage of member’s thinned out schedules to invite them to a community social that they otherwise wouldn’t attend. Beit Midrash groups can be held online too, taking advantage of online resources like Hakhel’s resource library and Sefaria.
Create online meeting spaces for people to share ideas and best practices that address shared challenges: children at home, working from home, caring for elderly parents we cannot visit and more.
Create online communal projects: cookbook, Pesach Hagaddah, collection of short stories, playlists. Use google docs to work collaboratively. Make sure everyone logs on to their google account before editing the document so you can see who has written what.
Bring the kids together! Set a fixed time for communal online story-time and ask members to take turns. Invite youth to assume leadership roles by becoming storytellers, singers and performers.
Create an engagement source: motivate all members to think how they can contribute to the community. Professional advice, online pilates session, math lessons, driving groceries, cooking for sick friends. Make sure everybody feels welcome to offer their qualities to others.
Some additional ideas for sessions to do with your community:
A sing-along session or online kumsitz! Always elevating.
Run webinars on issues of interest to the community: financial issues, psychology, family challenges and so on. To keep it short and snappy, use the structure of TED talks.
Music night: each member will share a favorite piece and tell the community more about it.
Practice Hebrew! An online app or a live remote lesson can be really handy, and if there are Hebrew speakers in your community they might be more than willing to provide a conversation partner.
Open a shared recommendations page and let all members bring their tips for domestic issues, kids, entertainment, stress relief and more.
Create your community page at the Beit Hatfutsot (Museum of the Jewish People) permanent exhibition.
Ideas for Families
Time at home with the family can be precious, but when you are not used to spending day after day in the house with young children, it can be hard to think of new activities to do with them. Here are some of our suggestions:
Turn your experience into a blog, add images and videos. Share tasks with your family members, where each one can focus on a different aspect and highlight insights day by day. Send your daily blog to older family members who might be feeling lonely. You can set up a free blog on a number of websites, or maybe sent it out via email or just post it on Facebook. You can even print it out for older family members who don’t use a computer or smart phone.
Choose a family challenge
A spring clean up, room makeover, yoga, gaming championship, master a family dance and more. Set a family goal together, put it on paper, divide it into daily steps and let everyone add their progress every day. This way the family will feel like they are working on a shared mission (think mini-intentional community!) which will bring you together without having to spend the whole day working together. If it makes the house tidier or keeps you in shape, it’s a bonus!
Gardening and window farming
What a wonderful opportunity to begin with your own mini veggie garden. No former experience is needed. It’s easy and satisfying. If you don’t have a garden you can use a window or sunny shelf as your green space. If an older member of the family knows more about gardening than you, take the opportunity to call them up and ask them for guidance. This can go a long way towards helping them to feel valuable in a time when they are being looked after.
Write postcards together
Make a list of faraway friends and family, and cheer them up them with a real hand made card! Writing the cards can be an interesting creative writing task for younger kids, and you can talk to them about how to address a card, how the postal service works, and there in the world the card will be sent to. Thinking about the world outside can help the family feel less enclosed during a quarantine.
Ready steady cook!
Create a fun meal with existing products, and turn it into a live show! You can team up with other families and cook together over zoom, or maybe the whole community will try their hand and see who will be crowned Masterchef of your community. Alternatively, use the opportunity to finish up goods which contain wheat and other grains before Passover, by trying to create a masterpiece from just five strange ingredients.
Share memories: Open your old albums and turn it into a game!
Let’s recognize and name the people, remember their highlights and let good experiences strengthen us now. If you never have time to print photos anymore, get the family around the computer and pick out your favorite photos for printing. Send them to be printed online, or design a photo album together.
Let each participant choose a theme and prepare 10 questions. Prepare a nice treat and some good music and shoot! If you want to be extra educational, prepare questions about topics your child is covering in school, Passover, or any other topic for a fun way to engage your child in a bit of homeschooling. Children can get involved too by providing them resources to study from which they can prepare questions for their parents or siblings.
Brainstorm together about the needs of your community, neighborhood, friends and colleagues. Maybe help take care of pets of your elderly neighbor? Collect some things to give away? Figure out what is your charity favorite and sign up for a monthly contribution? Time to think out loud.
Old games tournament
Remember those games which have been sitting in the cupboard gathering dust? Never have the time or patience to play a whole game of
monotomy monopoly? Create some family memories around the table now that everyone is home and nobody is rushing off.