G-d, grant me the creativity to bring my vision to life, the maturity to abandon dreams that aren’t ready for this world (or vice versa), and the community to hold me accountable while helping me recognize the difference.  

I am exhausted and I imagine some of you reading this are too. If you’re employed and not deemed an “essential worker” (like me), you may wake up each work week with a list of tasks that seem less important or inspiring in the new normal. You might push yourself to find the passion and purpose during a pandemic yet there is a sense of survivor’s guilt.

My loved ones or I could have contracted COVID-19 but we haven’t. 

My partner or I might lose our job like some of our peers. 

My friends and neighbors could die any day because of the color of their skin. 

Living in America in 2020 is a stressful situation yet I am more fortunate than most. Despite this, I feel despair and doubt these societal challenges are unlikely to get significantly better any time soon. So as I sit with this discomfort, I can shelter in place and I can lift my voice in protest. I can contact my local representatives and advocate for legislative change such as defunding the police. And I can do something I have done before and am yearning to do again: I can develop a creative solution that addresses a community need. 

My organization, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has once again partnered with Plywood People, Atlanta’s leading community of social entrepreneurial start-ups, to present Path by Plywood with Jewish ATL. Path is the first step in Plywood’s process and it’s for problem solvers who need direction and accountability as they decide what to do with their idea. Our Federation Innovation team has invested in a Path by Plywood community cohort because we believe we can build a more resilient Jewish Atlanta by supporting the entrepreneurs and changemakers who will build the future in which we all want to live. 

I am excited to join this group of creative thinkers that are building a new reality for our new normal. I am personally interested in exploring solutions for spiritual engagement enabled by technological advances. Prayer is one of our oldest traditions and come this Fall, our synagogues will feel empty during High Holy Day services as social distancing forces virtual engagement. But if the sanctuary is empty, will the Zoom “room” feel full? Or will it feel crowded? Will it feel cold and disconnected? 

We are at the edges of this new frontier bringing digital platforms to the analog practices of communal prayer. It is a space of opportunity because it is a space that until recently did not need to exist. So it may take months before I know the proper direction to take and the allies I need to bring along for the journey. But I take comfort in the realization that this is an opportunity to create and connect with friends, both new and old. Soon, I will have an inspiring curriculum and community to push me forward.  

Path by Plywood with Jewish ATL runs every Thursday night from July 9 – Sept 3. It costs $75 which is a highly subsidized price enabled by our Federation Innovation donors. Learn more about this 9-week course and register at https://jewishatlanta.org/path-by-plywood/