The Year That Was – And What A Year It Was!

How much have our lives changed? How much more change is still to come? How much can we cope with?

Amidst all the turmoil, fear and concern, I’ve had the privilege of working with our Rabbi, staff and Board to reshape ARK Centre.

Together we worked to reframe the question to: How can we support each other?

In March, just as were starting to get ready for an epic Purim party, we made a decision that became typical of every organisation over the following days and weeks. We cancelled the event. We suspended our services. We fundamentally changed how we operate.

As most of us went into isolation, our daily routines became anything but routine. New groups on social media were formed, phones pinged relentlessly with memes and information being shared and we found ourselves saying ‘zoom’ an awful lot. As scared as we were, and still are, our community came together in an unprecedented way. ‘Unprecedented’ – that’s another word we’ve heard a lot.

Seeing people struggle is always hard. Hearing their stories and feeling the pain of how people are being impacted financially, emotionally and socially shines a light on how easily our individual worlds can get turned upside down.

As an organisation we wanted to do what we could to support our community. I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved. And equally as humbled by the support we have received to be able to do what we do.

In order to enable this publication to proceed we, of course, approach advertisers. This year the response was overwhelming by those who agreed to advertise and several more who made a donation without taking an ad.

The generosity in dollars has been matched only by the generosity of spirit. We’ve had volunteers taking the time to call our members, check in on each other, letting us know if people needed our support, offering assistance with food deliveries and much more.

With thanks to Chef Dan, ARK Catering reframed its operation to focus on home delivery and the incredibly popular Shabbat Boxes.

When we launched our Pay it Forward initiative in early April, we couldn’t have predicted how many more families we’d be able to support. But the response was phenomenal.

As we know, Pesach was the first Chag we celebrated without our extended families.  The sheer number of Pesach Boxes and Seder Plates we delivered, across Melbourne, showed just how strongly our community wanted to maintain their traditions and stay connected even when they couldn’t rely on Savta to make the chicken soup.

That’s the community we love and serve. The strength of the Modern Orthodox spirit, the commitment to maintaining tradition, the will to do things differently to achieve meaning that is relevant today. Pesach during Covid-19 became a sort of analogy for ARK Centre.

In so many ways, we have always done things differently. The era of Coronavirus forced us to think outside the box in an entirely new way.

Our shiurim (lessons) moved online. Rabbi Gabi and Tunni Fogelgarn thoroughly entertained us with songs, and their unique commentary, for Kabbalat Shabbat via Facebook Live every Friday afternoon. We saw Rabbi Gabi’s face on video messages sharing his thoughts and experiences (and his support of Collingwood but let’s not go there #gotiges). We created a different menu each week to help those who couldn’t, or don’t usually, make Shabbat at home (or at least with so few people to feed) do so with ease. As well as unique menus for our Boxes for Pesach, Lag BaOmer and Shavuot.

While it’s become a little difficult to recall life ‘before iso’, writing this piece has led me down that path. Since the last edition of ARK Times ARK Centre has evolved in so many ways. The visitors we’ve had to the Centre, the events we’ve delivered, the style of services, the enormous growth in catering are just some of what you’ll read about throughout the pages of this magazine. And while we don’t know exactly what lies ahead, we are prepared better than ever, to adapt. As we look ahead and start to resume some of our services, and in the not too distant future some activities and programs, we are gearing up for a new kind of normal. A new kind of different.

As we look toward Rosh Hashanah we will be relying the support of our members and friends more than ever before. While at the time of going to print we don’t know what our services will look like this year, we assure

you that we will be here delivering all we can, quite likely in a variety of different ways, in line with the restrictions applicable at the time.

For the first time as GM of ARK Centre, I can’t predict what the next few months will look like. On the one hand, that’s not the ideal situation for a person who thrives on planning and contingencies. On the other, the future seems filled with almost limitless possibility – how could that not make you excited to find out what happens next?!

Shanah Tovah

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