CEO Letter 6.5.2020

by Jenn Ross

I was invited to a virtual community Iftar (meal) during the Muslim celebration of Ramadan to share some thoughts about unity and community during this challenging time. I would like to share these words with you and dedicate my column to my father in law Elliott Ross, z’l:

Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan). Thank you for inviting me as an honored guest and speaker at tonight’s community Iftar. Congratulations on your 100th anniversary of being part of the United States’ rich diverse religious culture.

I always appreciate the warm hospitality of Harrisburg Ahmadiyya community and have enjoyed participating in several women’s programs and numerous interfaith events that you have hosted.  I value my friendship with several of your members and look forward to getting to know more of you better.

All of our faith communities have been tested by too many challenges since I became CEO in 2016. We have survived these struggles, in part, due to the strength of our supportive faith communities which have helped each other through our individual crises. As people say, in the case of COVID-19, we are truly all in this together.  Our unity and community cohesiveness is more important than ever, and it will, ultimately guide us through this unprecedented time as well.

My personal faith has been a rock for me during this stay at home. My synagogue has provided online Shabbat services and I’ve had opportunities for learning and connecting with colleagues by Zoom and by phone.  We were able to hold a virtual 24 hour Reading of the Names in memory of people who perished in the Holocaust instead of foregoing the decades-long event.

I enjoyed participating virtually in this year’s Commonwealth Interfaith Service. Although I look forward to the opportunity to attend it again at the Hadee Mosque and other local houses of worship, I appreciated that it could occur this year as always, and it was an incredibly meaningful event.  Tonight I am uplifted as we are together celebrating these two special occasions.

Two challenges which we all struggle with in a deeper way during COVID is visiting loved ones who are ill or isolated for their own safety, and practicing our full traditions in times of mourning.  Sadly, my father- in-law passed away on May 15 due to illnesses unrelated to COVID. His family and I were fortunate to be permitted to visit with him before his passing, and I am grateful for that. I am saddened for others who do not have that opportunity.  We understand we will have a very small funeral service, but I appreciate that technology will allow us to invite many others to join with us for Shiva, our virtual family gathering later on.

In spite of the challenges, I continuously seek the bright lines and our wonderful interfaith community has been a continuous source of strength and renewal for me. I hope that you all remain healthy and safe and am grateful to have you as my neighbor and friend.  May peace be upon you.