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By Gaby Rattner, Barbara's House Executive Director

In a few days it will be March 11, the one-year anniversary of the day the pandemic shut things down in Greenwich. The day the world changed. If that sounds like a science fiction/thriller movie title, perhaps that is because in fact the world we have been living in this past year has indeed been scary and at times even surreal. But as I look back on the past twelve months and ahead to the next, I am struck not only by the painful losses, the constrictions, restrictions and considerable pain caused by the pandemic, but also by the hope, optimism and strong sense of Greenwich community that has arisen from it.

At my son’s bar mitzvah some years before the pandemic struck, I learned a new word. Looking around at the guests who swelled the congregation that day, people from all over the world and all parts of our lives, the rabbi talked about how their presence at the service was evidence of the importance of Kehillah in our family’s life. Kehillah is a Jewish concept of community. It conveys the sense that we are all part of a community together, with obligations to support each other and to take comfort from one another. That we are much more than ourselves alone. Applied to the context of our family’s celebration, it meant that we recognized and appreciated how meaningful it is to be part of a strong community, how supportive and valuable our community is in helping us to raise our child and live our “best lives.”

The word has stuck with me over the years, and especially as we have navigated this past year. I am deeply proud of the work our organization, Barbara's House, has been able to do during this time. Proud of our agency’s agility, responsiveness and willingness to change course immediately to develop new services for a new time. Grateful to our staff who bring their ingenuity, dedication and compassion each and every day; they have enabled us to do necessary and deeply gratifying work. And I am enormously honored by the collaborations we have forged with other Greenwich agencies and individuals. There is simply no way we could have accomplished anything this year without Kehillah – without our community.

There are so many individuals and organizations who have made the past year endurable. To name just a few: The town agency leader who called me on March 11 – ground zero; day one – to ask what we needed. The amazing donor who told me he had our back. The foundations that responded immediately with emergency funds. My synagogue, again, which offered help navigating the steps towards a Payroll Protection Plan loan and provided matzoh to two elderly clients of ours in need and wanting to celebrate the Passover holiday, pandemic or no. The colleague who steered us to a local bank when bigger institutions wanted only to lend to larger businesses and organizations. The bank officer who, while never having met us, processed our loan with incredible speed and continues to be a partner today. The pro bono attorneys who helped us sort out each new question or issue over this complex year. The agency partner who keeps finding new ways to help us help more people. Colleagues from so many organizations and agencies who offered physical and emotional support as we all tried to figure our way through to the other side. Extraordinarily generous donors who have responded to calls for everything from poinsettias (Christmas), roses (Valentine’s Day), Easter baskets, grocery bags and of course, financial support. The volunteers who came, taught, brought and continue to this day to make our efforts realizable. Religious leaders from all over our town; elected officials from Town, state and federal government.

Teachers and Greenwich School administration and staff who have made our town an emblem for what can be accomplished during the pandemic. The colleagues and friends with whom I laughed, cried (sometimes in the same conversation), collaborated with and learned from. Our board who responded always quickly, energetically and enthusiastically. Family and friends who have pitched in, encouraged, brainstormed and helped to solve problems large and small. And most important of all, our clients whose expressions of gratitude for whatever we try to do to make things better makes us want to go on to the next day. It is an honor to be part of this incredible community.

Truisms about this time will abound: That we are alone together, that it takes a village, that there is power in numbers. For me, these truisms hold true. With thanks to my Kehillah.

This post first appeared in the Greenwich Sentinel.


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