When COVID-19 hit, ensuring that regional communities could continue to have access to Jewish programs and services took on new significance. Jewish Federation’s Connect Me In program coordinators Adam Ben-Dov and Hannah Yerington worked closely with community members as well as our partner organizations to find new ways of ensuring people in the region remained connected during the pandemic.
Here are some of the initiatives and programs that have been taking place:
The North Shore Shabbat group, in collaboration with Har El and Or Shalom, has continued to get together through this time. The program, which has been meeting since last year, has moved their gatherings to Zoom, with attendance numbers similar to when the events were held in person. What's more, many participants have embraced this new format and taken the opportunity to come with meditations to share, Yiddish welcome songs, singing, folktales, and more.
"I want to express my deep appreciation to Connect Me In,“ says Chaia Schneid, one of the facilitators from the North Shore community. “We have been able to shift our monthly North Shore Shabbat Potluck group to Zoom because of Hannah Yerington's support. It is filling a critical role in the lives of our members who have been attending."
Through the pandemic, Hannah has also been working together with PJ Library to help ensure that kids all around the Greater Vancouver area have access to Jewish books at home. She will be delivering "Summer Storytime" boxes throughout the summer to regular participants of her Toddler Circle Time sessions on the North Shore. Each box contains a book, based on each child's age, as well as fun summer activities.
Around the Lower Mainland
On the Lower Mainland, the Regional Community Hebrew School, which offers programs in Langley and the Tri-Cities, and which is delivered in collaboration with Chabad, transitioned successfully to an online format when things began to shut down. To keep students engaged, teachers delivered packages containing materials for lessons as well as craft supplies so that kids could participate in projects together with their peers through Zoom. The year culminated in a socially-distanced driving scavenger hunt in Coquitlam, with each student receiving a certificate for the year and other goodies (including a siddur).
Kol hakavod to our partner agency, the Burquest Jewish Community Association for finding creative ways of keeping their members connected. We are very proud to support the launch of a new Jewish day camp for children in the Tri-Cities area this August, thanks to a collaboration between Connect Me In and Camp Gan Israel. The week-long program will take place outdoors in the central Coquitlam area for kids aged three to 10.
In spite of the challenging nature of this time, Jewish Federation continues to look for ways to build Jewish community across the region, and turn the present difficulties into opportunities to forge new and more meaningful connections.