The Importance of Gathering Together in Challenging Times

The Importance of Gathering Together in Challenging Times
By Steve Albert

The onset of the war in Israel has led to a traumatic and stressful time in our Jewish community and similar communities around the nation and the world. One of the most important things that we can do during such challenging times is to gather together in person. Such gatherings provide numerous benefits for each of us as individuals and for our community as a whole.

Before I talk about those benefits, I want to say a word about security. Our security experts tell us that, in the Portland metro area, there are no known threats, there has been no increase in antisemitic activity, and there is no reason to change our behaviors or plans. Moreover, even in the calmest of times, we have staff who are trained and facilities that are hardened to meet heightened security standards, and those protocols have gotten even stronger. Using trained security staff, ID checks, bag inspections, surveillance cameras, fencing, access control systems, ballistic glass and much more, our Jewish communal spaces are among the safest places in Portland.

That’s important because we need to come together for a host of reasons. First, gathering provides social opportunities that ensure our sense of connection. During times of crisis, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone, and socializing enhances our well-being by reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

Second, gathering allows us to provide emotional support to one another. Sharing our joys and sorrows, especially during challenging times, provides the emotional support that we need for mental well-being.

Third, gathering builds community. Being in community enhances our sense of identity and purpose. It also enhances our sense of belonging, provides opportunities to network, and enables us to strengthen our relationships. The stronger our community becomes, the more resilient we are, collectively.

Fourth, gathering provides the most effective opportunities to learn. It’s important for us to get accurate information, find new resources, hear diverse perspectives, identify opportunities to take action, and become more engaged. Learning helps us grow personally and make a difference in our world.

Finally, gathering allows us to celebrate Jewish holidays and culture. While we may not feel very celebratory these days, we have a commitment to preserve our traditions and history and ensure Jewish continuity. Such celebrations connect us with our ancestors and with another and provide reassurance and joy in the most difficult moments.

In short, in person gatherings are critical to meeting our social, emotional, relational, educational and cultural needs, contributing to healthier and more meaningful lives and a stronger, more resilient community. What event or program to you plan to attend next?