One of our long time FZY members, Jack Isaacs, reflects on the turmoil of the corona virus and what it means for the future of FZY.
Thursday 9th July 2020 had been pencilled in my calendar for over a year. This was the day that the Diller UK cohort would fly to Israel to begin two and a half weeks of identity and leadership exploration to conclude their Diller journeys for the year. As the Second Staff member, I was just as excited, if not more excited, than the fellows who’s decision to take part in the programme was probably heavily based around a trip to Israel: a very fair decision as it was one I had taken just 3 years earlier as a fellow in the first Diller UK group.
On Monday 16th March, things began to change. I was at university for my normal Monday lectures and seminars but there was a strange feel around the City of Leeds, and ultimately around the world.
Just under two weeks earlier I got the inclination that my university year would be cut short when I stepped off a train in Sheffield with my brother Ethan. We had travelled on a Wednesday night to the Steel City for an FA Cup 5th round game between our beloved Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday but as soon as the train stopped, we both received an email detailing the regret to inform us that we would no longer be running at the Jerusalem Marathon for Shalva due to the Coronavirus outbreak across the globe. I’ve previously recorded my feelings on the run on my Facebook page (I’m not going into detail of it all again so if you’re interested just go and have a look!).
That football match would be the last one, and thankfully it was a winning one (praise the Lord for Sergio Agüero) that I would have the pleasure of going to before all sport was suspended and crowds across all areas of society were dwindled down to zero as we began the first phase of “lockdown”. I suppose the final “crowd” I was in was the final Minchah/Ma’ariv service at my Shul, socially distanced and outside in front of the building, before the Government and the Chief Rabbi closed places of worship. Whilst I’m not the most religious Jew, this moment was dampening, seeing a community hub have to shut its doors until who knows when, meaning those who have lost loved ones cannot say the memorial prayer of Mourner’s Kaddish in the presence of a Minyan. This upset is compounded because, as a Jewish community, we unite around people we know at a time of loss and not being able to do so leaves a physical absence of this unification.
That Monday in the middle of March proved to be my last in Leeds for the foreseeable future as I swiftly returned home the following day with all my possessions packed up. The cancellation of the run immediately brought my attention to FZY Summer programmes as they have been a huge part of my life every year from 2015 onwards. Would I be going to Israel with Diller? Would the biggest programme the movement offers, Israel Tour, happen? Will camp happen after the greatest interest in Ofek and Kesher for G-d knows how long?
As a passionate FZY-nik and a member of the Kol Anashim, we tried to come up with an FZY lockdown plan to keep members engaged whilst the bigger picture of the movement was sorted out in the background. UJIA took the decision to cancel Israel Tour programmes, Diller Teen Fellows cancelled ISS (Israel Summer Seminar) and, in my opinion, this was the correct action to take. Health is wealth and this storm needs to be ridden out with safety of participants paramount in any programme any organisation runs. Thankfully we will be operating a new look FZY Day Camp this summer, a true test of adaptability but, I hope, a very rewarding way for our new crop of madrichim to spend their summers.
In Kol Anashim meetings we discussed ideas that resided in the successful FZY Online weekly schedules as well as the Instagram takeovers that gave all the members a different vibe every week as everyone came up with something different. This included the Little Israel series, which has since become the only existing episodes based on the characters of Matt Lucas and David Walliams; how the world has changed in these four months!
I suppose the most important thing the Kol Anashim had to debate was how does FZY continue to exist after this pandemic? The financial consequences suffered were almost catastrophic (whether this is hyperbole or not). As a movement, we’ve had to forgo our Northern Office but more upsettingly had to see our fantastic Northern Shlicha Ortal leave. The honour of being a part of the decisions on where we go forward is one I have not taken for granted and our movement has had to be restructured at the top to encompass the security that we can keep moving.
With that I would like to announce that FZY will now be operating with a Board of Directors and that I will be the first senior member of FZY on this new board! I’m sure if you want further details you can contact Imi or our executive directive Joel but I would like to thank them both in this article for being fundamental to the existence of FZY and for all their hard work, especially over the last few months. Our movement is in the right hands and that also goes for the Diller Teen Fellows programme with Rebecca in charge and being such a great “boss” (if you can call the Diller Coordinator your boss that is).
Anyway, back to the supposed new way of life we’ve faced. As Diller Staff, we’ve worked really hard to keep our fellows engaged and had almost weekly Zoom calls (the person behind this platform should get knighted in my opinion) covering a wide range of topics. Unfortunately, digital interaction has been the most common form of interaction for most of us. This time has been challenging and rewarding at the same time. Some of us have strengthened relationships, some of us have seen relationships weaken, some have seen both but, despite these changes, we have all been given an opportunity that is very rare in the form of the world freezing.
Life came to a halt, giving us all a chance to make a change to how we act. Volunteering in our local communities, being at the end of a WhatsApp or Zoom call or whatever form of communication you use (even House party before there was the privacy thing that came up), setting personal goals and more. I’ve picked up a tennis racket for the first time in four years and, although my recent results haven’t been the best, there has been a major benefit to doing this. There’s no need to go into the political themes that have arisen recently but we can see that as a community, we’ve become stronger.
Sure, the plans we’ve had for 2020 have been scrapped or reshaped, but I know I’ve had the chance to “start a revolution from my bed.” Whether I feel I’ve taken it yet is up to me, maybe the revolution is still starting. We’ve all faced disappointment this year however we are going to come out the other side of it for the better…
But don't look back in anger Don't look back in anger YOU heard ME say