The front doors of our community center are locked. The treadmills stand still, group exercise studios have no beat, there are no three-point shot attempts on the basketball courts, nor is children’s laughter echoing from the swimming pool. Our building is quiet — yet our community continues to stay connected.
Though we have been mandated to stay six feet away from each other and not gather in communal spaces, this does not mean we stop doing what we are doing. Yes, we need to be physically distant from one another, but now more than ever we need to be socially connected. This is what we do as a community center. We bring people together, and when we can’t convene in our physical spaces, we simply find another way.
The team at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center has made it a top priority to create content and programming that encourage connectedness. Our group exercise classes have been converted to a virtual format, our personal trainers appear live each day via social media platforms, and our membership team throws happy hours and member noshes through Zoom calls.
Our camp team is forging on, planning for a summer that will go down in the books as the “best summer ever,” all while simultaneously providing activities and projects for families to enjoy at home. Our arts and culture team streams live Krav Maga classes, and offers film links and book recommendations. We continue to bring people together despite being apart.
Are these virtual gatherings and events the same as the ones attended in our building? Of course not. But we adapt — that’s what we do. Why? Because we are not glass half empty types of people. We see the glass as three quarters of the way full, so we find solutions to challenges.
For now, we connect virtually. We dance in our living rooms, we use functional body weight training for our exercise programs and we have happy hours on our back patios. We laugh together, support one another and find the silver lining. What I know for sure is this too shall pass, and by staying socially connected, we will come back stronger than ever.
Jennifer Harrington is the assistant executive director at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center in Portland, Oregon.