Five families gathered in a circle in the park, protected from the brutal heat by shade. Everyone respected social distancing and wore masks.
Led by Cantor Melanie Blatt, Director of Education Eyal Bor and Federal Hill’s Preschool Director Stephanie Ziman, the families sang many familiar Shabbat songs and danced in their respective spaces.
The evening ended with a multisensory experience of Havdalah. The service began with singing the bracha for the grape juice, followed by smelling the sweet spices and lastly reciting the bracha for the multi-wicked Havdalah candle as it was extinguished in the glass of grape juice, symbolizing the beginning of the new week.
This was the first in-person experience for the children since their last day of school March 13.
“It brought joyous tears and smiles from ear to ear from everyone present,” said Stephanie G. Ziman, preschool director.
“Thank you so much for organizing the Havdalah event,” wrote one parent, Joel Neft. “It was refreshing to see you and everybody else— Shai (in his own way) was so excited to see familiar faces.”
The event was particularly poignant for Neft because it offered a sense of community, which quarantine has robbed many of. “There has been a feeling (at least for us) that we are separate from our communities, that we are distant from the groups that made up our lives,” he wrote. “Well, the Havdala event gave us an opportunity to come together as a community, sing songs, and ‘be’ together in a group. It was exactly what we and the kids needed— music, familiar faces, and some outdoor space.”