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March 2021 Rabbi Arnow's Article

“What Are We Learning?” 
As I look back on the last twelve months, a period dominated by the pandemic and filled with losses large and small, I find it helpful, focusing and inspiring to reflect on the question, “What are we learning?” 
Here are some of my inklings about what we are learning. 
Collectively, we are learning the nuts and bolts of using technologies for gathering. We are still tinkering with and mastering Zoom, and more and more of us are becoming comfortable chatting, hosting, and participating in events via Zoom. 
We are learning that there are people who are interested in being a part of our community even though they are not geographically proximate to St. Louis. And we are also seeing people participate virtually who may be geographically close but are not easily mobile. 
We are learning how to focus on prayer even amidst the distractions of our computers, our phones and our homes. 
We are learning that despite all the superb national and international virtual learning and prayer opportunities available, people still want to feel part of Kol Rinah, and live their Jewish life through us, with people they know. 
We are learning that we can create new social rituals in virtual space. Burton Boxerman’s daily trivia question before evening minyan (at around 5:59pm most evenings) is a great example of this. 
We are learning that teachers having virtual one-on-one time with students at KoREH is a powerful educational experience. 
We are learning that Shabbat and holiday services can be moving while moving along. 
We are learning how to program and celebrate creatively, how to reinvent holiday observances and synagogue traditions for evolving constraints, and that we can be nimble and inventive. 
We are learning that all of the casual interactions that happened when we were together in person are impossible to replicate virtually, and that these lost social interactions have a real cost in terms of our connections with each other and the congregation. 
We are learning that meetings can be conducted efficiently and effectively on Zoom, with good attendance, and that the pre- and post-meeting schmoozing needs to be built into meetings or it won’t happen. 
We are learning generally that virtual social interactions need to be very consciously and thoughtfully planned, or else they simply won’t happen. 
Most of all, we are learning how much technology can help us, how self-conscious and reflective and thoughtful we have to be about technology, and how hungry we also are for face-to-face in-person relationship and connection. 
What else are you learning? What else are we learning? 
May we continue to learn, together! 
Fri, September 29 2023 14 Tishrei 5784