Stuck in Quarantine

Posted on March 23, 2011

Rabbi Nina Mizrahi the Director of the Pritzker Center for Jewish Education at the JCC Chicago sends out a weekly Shabbat Message about the parsha and/or a timely message.  Below is her message for this week:

The “Quarantine” can apply to human beings, materials and vehicles.  Medically, quarantine involves the isolation of people who either have a contagious disease or have been exposed to one, in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease.  Such isolation was imposed on new immigrants, as was the case for those who were detained at Ellis Island for a period of 40 days.  Quarantine can encompass social, political and economic isolation which is imposed as a punishment.  An individual might be ostracized or sanctions enforced against a foreign nation in retribution for what the US considers to be unacceptable policies.

Today, as in many institutions, emails received at JCC from unrecognized sources are sent to quarantine.  In the beginning, I just assumed that if they were sent there, they belonged there.  But then I started receiving inquiries (to put it politely) from folks asking why I had not responded to their email.  Sure enough, they (the people or the emails?) had been sent to quarantine.  Curious, I began exploring what had been quarantined over the past couple of months.  Sure enough, there was the usual spam promising a more fulfilling love life and a range of seedy or highly suspect offers.  What else did I find?  Invitations, promotions, and updates from legitimate institutions, including those in the Jewish world.

Okay, to be honest, on some level I don’t mind having fewer emails to plow through.  On the other hand, I had also missed messages from the congregation on who was born and who passed away, and a message from my daughter asking me to call her.  One of my colleagues had sent multiple emails – and to think I thought she had been ignoring me.  I felt like a heel.

In sharing this with one of my co-workers, she mentioned yet another mistaken quarantine email – from the organization, Areyvut (, which is dedicated to promoting works of kindness (hesed), generosity (tzedakah) and repairing what is broken in our world (tikkun olam).  Such critical values should only be contagious – think about how much better our world would be!  As Shabbat approaches, consider what behaviors, thoughts or feelings need to be placed in quarantine, where they can receive the focus they need to promote healing.  And consider how those values and the actions they drive can become more contagious in your life and in the lives of those you touch.

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