Coronavirus crisis not shaking Winnipeg rabbi’s faith in people

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all aspects of Manitobans’ lives — including the spiritual side.

A Winnipeg rabbi told 680 CJOB that people’s faith — whatever that means to them — can be a way to deal with the uncertainty about the COVID-19 crisis.

“I think people are most unsettled by the feeling of uncertainty,” said rabbi Matthew Leibl of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue.

“I think if the word came out that we all needed to shut down for three weeks or for one month, and then everything would be over… people would be fine.

“Faith, however you think about faith — it could be faith in God, faith in people, faith in yourself — faith, as a belief, can give you calm and confidence to prevent panic and fear and uncertainty.”

Leibl said his synagogue has been weathering the crisis well, as it put in a video system a few years ago and has been broadcasting services via YouTube since well before the novel coronavirus became an issue.

“We were kind of lucky we did this, we got ahead of the curve, where all of our services from our sanctuary and our chapel, people could watch online from our YouTube channel,” he said.

“So when all of this hit, it was a very easy transition for us. We closed our synagogue to the public, but we have all services online. We do all of our services, multiple times a day.

“We’ve set up a chat so that people can type in and interact with us and it’s in some ways maybe even a more interactive and more intimate and personal service, so now our synagogue has gone virtual and it can be in people’s homes.”

The synagogue is among many local houses of worship that have had to come up with alternative means of providing services to the community.

Local mosques have also closed due to COVID-19, although the Manitoba Islamic Association has moved Friday prayers and other spiritual content to its YouTube channel as well.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Boniface is taking the same steps, broadcasting its services online and via social media, as well as offering weekly video messages of hope from its archbishop.

Churches, temples and other houses of worship around the province — of all faiths — are following similar tacks while the crisis continues.

“As a humanity, I think that we are going to persevere,” said Leibl, a well-known Winnipeg sportscaster before seeking a spiritual calling.

“I know we’re going to persevere, because that’s where my faith is — I believe in people.

“There will be more and more beautiful, heartwarming, personal stories that come out of this. I believe there will be things in the long run that will make us stronger as a community because of this adversity we’re going through right now.”

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