As 2020 comes to an end, (Amen- Baruch Hashem) all of us will likely remember this as the year of the pandemic. We have socially distanced ourselves. We have worn masks. We have not seen many of our family and or friends. We have not been able to participate in Betel’s in-person programs, events and lectures. We have not gone shopping. We have bought lots of hand sanitizers and pump soaps. We have reflected on what and who is important in our lives.
On March 17, 2020 all our in-person programs except Meals on Wheels ended and many of us began working and continue to work from home.
I have heard from many friends and colleagues that as the first COVID-19 vaccines are being given and vaccines become available to everyone in the country many folks are beginning to feel ‘somewhat’ hopeful that our lives will return to “normal”. (whatever that is.)
Whether we are working/learning at the Centre or at home, we are all on this journey together. I am heartened by the collective commitment and resiliency demonstrated by our staff. It has been an honour to see their dedication, innovation and determination. Their inspiring acts of caring, compassion, courage and kindness shown each and everyday is truly magical. I am humbled by what we have accomplished in the past year. It is a true testimony of the human spirit and our ability to respond and rise to the occasion no matter how difficult or challenging the task may be.
This year as we celebrate Kwanzaa, Christmas, Chanukah, Diwali and the Solstice, we must physically distance ourselves from our loved ones. As we celebrate these special holidays in our community, we want to acknowledge our privilege and those individuals and their families that lost their lives or their loved ones ravaged by COVID-19. We also want to take a moment to think of Ella Moshinsky, 85-year-old Holocaust Survivor, who lost her life in a devastating fire last week by lighting candles on the first night of Chanukah. May her memory be a blessing and the family comforted among all the mourners of Zion.
As we reflect on this past year, I think it is our collective responsibility to commit to seeing what we have chosen not to see, to listen to what we have refused to hear and to seek to understand what it means to be a citizen of the world.
The pandemic brought to light many serious issues and inequities surrounding the vulnerability of our seniors. For some of us it was reinforcing and affirming to read the City of Toronto’s August release of Senior Poverty and Inequity: The Toronto Experience. This in-depth report revealed that many Toronto seniors were struggling financially long before the pandemic and that one in six live in poverty, with immigrant seniors twice as likely to be affected as non-immigrant seniors. The report included 16 policy directions to ensure that every senior can age comfortably and with dignity. The pandemic has left many of our seniors isolated, food insecure, depressed and anxious due to the unknown after months of being on their own with limited social interaction.
Through our incredibly diverse remote programs we are currently offering over 100 free, remote programs either through Zoom, Facebook Live, or through Seniors Centres without Walls teleconferencing system. Our commitment is to keep our seniors’ community connected and engaged with high calibre learning opportunities, health and wellness and cultural programming, Meals on Wheels for those individuals most vulnerable and Chiropody services.
As we head into the year 2021, we need your support in-order for us to continue doing what we do – provide exemplary multilingual programs. In the absence of regular membership dues and course fees and limited fund-raising initiatives, your 2020 gift will help strengthen our current programs and assist us developing new and innovative programs.
We wish all of you a healthy and joyful season and a new year where we care for one another in ways that we have now demonstrated we can. We hope you take some time to reach out to those you love.
Be well, be kind and take good care of yourself. Happy, healthy holiday!