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Asking the Clergy: How can the faithful preserve traditions during pandemic?

The Rev. Francis Pizzarelli of St. Joseph's College

The Rev. Francis Pizzarelli of St. Joseph's College and Hope House Ministries, left, Sanaa Nadim of the Islamic Society Interfaith Center at Stony Brook University and Rabbi Michael Mishkin of Temple Beth Israel. Credit: Composite photo: Hope House Ministries, left, Newsday / John H.Cornell Jr. and Felicia Lebow

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting Long Island as Easter (April 12), Passover (April 8-16) and Ramadan (30 days beginning April 23) approach. This week’s clergy discuss how traditions can be preserved amid social upheaval.

Rabbi Michael Mishkin

Temple Beth Israel, Port Washington

Why is this night different from all other nights? This is a question we are asking every night during this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. And this question will take on an added meaning this year, at the Passover seders.

This year, because of social distancing, the seders will be radically different. Instead of sitting at the seder table with family and friends, many of us, including many members of my congregation and I, will be using Zoom (which enables videoconferencing) to have a virtual community seder.

Although according to Jewish law you can, and should, have a seder if you are by yourself, the Passover seder celebrates family, community and peoplehood. When the seder arrives, I hope we will be closer to ending this pandemic and celebrating redemption; however, if the news is still grim, we must remember that the ultimate message of Passover is hope. No matter how challenging the times, a loving and moral God, in partnership with people doing acts of hesed (loving kindness) will bring about redemption. Next year in Jerusalem!

The Rev. Francis Pizzarelli

Lecturer, St. Joseph’s College, Patchogue; founder, Hope House Ministries, Port Jefferson

These Lenten days have been most challenging. They have forced us to take pause in the midst of fear and confusion to think about the most important things in our lives.

Amid this crisis, hope continues to live and be one of the foundational blocks of our faith. It has been heartwarming to see people stand up and step out on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. My heart has been overwhelmed by the offers of food and other supplies for the residential ministries that I supervise. They are among the poorest of the poor in our midst.

Amid this painful pandemic, the best of America is rising. The bridges we are building, and the human relationships that are being created, are an inspiration. The Easter season is an opportunity to give God thanks for his gift of love through the life, death and resurrection of his son, Jesus. It is also an opportunity for us to truly live the faith we say we believe. Our faith is best seen in our actions and our willingness to work for social justice by the way we live.

Sanaa Nadim

Chaplain, Islamic Society Interfaith Center, Stony Brook University

Islam is an adaptable faith. And it can be practiced with or without a congregation. A principle in Islam is that a believer should not cause harm to others, nor should he allow that harm to be inflicted on himself.

In the midst of this tragic COVID-19 pandemic, this ruling dictates that Muslims, in keeping with an understanding of how virus spreads, should respect the limits on physical proximity to protect others and themselves.

At home, families can convene in prayer. Muslims can connect to a sermon online. Around the world, mosques from Medina to Jerusalem are hosting virtual sermons. Of course, another connection is made with Allah through spirituality.

Ramadan, the month of fasting, is to commence in a few weeks. The Abrahamic faiths will collectively experience the challenges of celebrating major holidays in nontraditional ways. This unifies us in our effort to believe. In Islam, patience is spiritual purity. Now is a time to practice patience. And in this journey, we work together in protecting one another’s safety and preserving our collective well-being.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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