Even a Serious Pandemic Can’t Defeat a Strong Brotherhood

By now, everyone knows about the COVID-19 pandemic that has altered life as we knew it and is still raging on. The virus appeared to be quite aggressive and spread around the world in short order. It also appeared to be deadly, especially for the elderly and people with underlying health issues. In an effort to reduce the threat of the virus, nearly every nation shut down and encouraged their citizens to quarantine themselves at home, limiting contact with other human beings. Restaurants, stores, car dealerships, airlines, and essentially all other symbols of civilization were also shut down. This included places of worship.

Temple Israel of Sharon, Massachusetts, has historically had a strong and very active Brotherhood (TIBros). The TIBros always have many activities going on. The Board of Directors traditionally met monthly, usually on a Sunday morning at 10 AM. Participants were provided breakfast that usually included bagels, lox, yogurt, cake, fruit, coffee, and tea.

Among the long list of activities, there would be a breakfast with a speaker (often someone in professional sports) quarterly. As the pandemic continued, it was immediately obvious that the in-person meetings could no longer be held. Using the Zoom platform, we successfully held two virtual Board meetings and two virtual speaker events, one of which was a Zoom meeting with Jared Firestone, who is currently training to be Israel’s Winter Olympics representative in the sliding sport skeleton event (kind of like a bobsled). However, despite the ability to see one another on their computer screens, many of the Brotherhood members expressed disappointment in not truly seeing one another in person for several months.

But really, why couldn’t we see each other in person? There had to be a way. It then became clear that as long as we practiced social distancing, we could meet! We decided that one evening we would test this. A few weeks ago, approximately 10 members met in a large otherwise empty parking lot near Temple Israel and Sharon High School. We each brought a chair and a drink and placed the chairs in a circle facing each other but keeping about 10 feet away from one another. It worked!! We had a very pleasant hour shooting the…., well, you know what.

This was so successful that we decided to see if we could hold our Sunday breakfast meeting the same way. This past Sunday, from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM, 13 of the Bros held the Sunday Breakfast meeting together, outside on an absolutely beautiful Sunday morning. We each brought our own chairs, coffee, and bagels. So, yes, you can have your cake (bagel?) and eat it, too. We are now discussing whether we could hold a Board meeting outside and together.

My advice: Think out of the box and don’t give up. There is usually a solution.

Scott A. Shikora
Brotherhood, Temple Israel of Sharon

The Temple Israel of Sharon, Massachusetts Brotherhood Club President, Scott Shikora, MD is a Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and the Director of the Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He is married to Susan Musciant Shikora and has 3 adult children.