By DAN HOROWITZ
In early April, Dr. David Carr, an emergency physician in Toronto, joined Jews around the globe who had to settle for a Zoom seder in light of COVID-19.
So what about the High Holidays in September? Will we be praying online again, or is there a chance that we can actually join friends and family in a bricks-and-mortar synagogue?
“I think that the way we congregate in mass gatherings will be much different moving forward than it has been in the past,” said Carr, who’s also an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Toronto.
In an interview with The CJR, Carr said he “certainly can’t imagine packed High Holiday services with people scrambling for seats. I think the way synagogues redesign their congregations will be key.”
Even so, “undoubtedly things will be very different in the fall, whether people are attending synagogues or whether they even feel safe and comfortable in synagogue.”
If they do, they will need to display strict adherence to public health guidelines, Carr said.
“It may be that they will have to stagger services or have people not starting and stopping at the same time,” he offered.
He agrees the High Holiday period will be challenging.
“This virus will continue to be around because of its global presence for years to come until we have a safe and effective vaccine that is widely available and widely adopted.”
That means that by the autumn, there will be no change in available treatments or prevention. “The only thing that will continue to be essential this fall is social distancing, hygiene and wearing a mask,” Carr said.
This may be time, he said, for the community to look at other ways to find meaning in spirituality and prayer.
When it comes to children returning to Jewish day schools in September, Carr believes reintegration will also be completely different.
“Clearly, if there was a time for reduced class sizes, this may be it,” he said. “You certainly don’t want your kids going to a class with 30 other students. I think reduced class sizes with distancing among desks will key.”
He thinks kids will no longer have free recess, and that large cafeteria lunches will end.
“I think that there will have to be a minimization of mingling and even the dropping off and picking up processes will have to be staggered so the whole school doesn’t show up at the same time,” Carr stated. “People will have to wash their hands when they enter, and before and after lunch.”
But Carr remains optimistic on children’s wellbeing.
“For the most part, the majority of the mortality from COVID-19 has affected our seniors, especially those living in long-term care facilities or those with underlying medical issues,” he explained. “This remains a very safe virus for children as far as we know.”
Said Carr: “I don’t fear for my children. My fears and worries surround protecting our parents and grandparents.”
He believes the creation of a vaccine will be a global collaborative process.
“Never in the history of humanity have we seen a more dedicated effort in the scientific world to collaborate. Now, more than ever, collaboration is key. It’s not a competition, and there’s no suggestion that one group is ahead of the other.”
He believes the scientific community will work together “and bring us to a normal life soon.”