July 2020 -- Tammuz-Av 5780,  Volume 26, Issue 7

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Walking in the Shadow: Healing Together

By Stephen E. Lipken


A special Memorial Service, “Walking in the Shadow: Healing Together as a Greater Westchester Jewish Community, ” was held remotely on Thursday, June 18th, commemorating losses of loved ones from COVID-19 and other causes, having had to mourn them without the comfort of customary mourning practices.


The event was sponsored by Westchester Board of Rabbis (WBOR); Kol Hazzanim—the Westchester Community of Cantors; UJA-Federation of NY; Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) and Westchester Jewish Council.


The Service began with a rendition of Psalm 23, “The Lord is My Shepard” by Cantor Gerald Cohen, Congregation Shaarei Tikvah, Scarsdale and member, Kol Hazzanim, followed by Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester Rabbi Howard Goldsmith, representing WBOR who began, “Psalm 23, so beautifully sung by Cantor Cohen makes a promise.  In his moving words, King David conveys G-d’s vow to walk with us in the Valley of the Silence, be with us and alleviate our fears...


“In our ritual care for one another, we bring G-d’s promised comfort to the mourner, funeral and daily Minyan, shloshim (initial period of mourning), yahrzeit (anniversary of death) and yizkor.”


The names of COVID victims and others were read, including individuals remembering their loved ones. Memorializing his mother, Myrna Frances Schloss, Cantor Randall Schloss, Temple Israel New Rochelle chanted the memorial prayer “El Moleh Rachamin.” Temple Israel Northern Westchester Rabbi Jennifer Jaech intoned the Kaddish; Cantor Ethan Goldberg, Westchester Jewish Center and Rabbi Cantor Shoshi Levin Goldberg, Temple Israel Center, White Plains rendered “Oseh Shalom Bimromav.”


A dialogue between Rabbi Pamela Wax, WJCS Spiritual Care Coordinator and Gillian Rittmaster, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), WJCS Bereavement and Pathways to Care Coordinator about grief and loss in the time of COVID-19 followed.


Wax asked Rittmaster about her clinical experience with her clients concerning COVID-19.  “What my bereavement clients have been grieving is the lack of human, contact, social distancing,” Rittmaster replied.  “There is no spontaneity, no human touch…”


Rittmaster stressed,  “A loved one’s dying with a survivor’s not being able to be there is very traumatic, but many of my clients are very resilient.”