By Erin Harper
As this university wraps up another semester of mostly virtual classes, Kedma, the Orthodox Jewish group on campus, is hesitant to host limited in-person events and services.
Founded in 1997, Kedma has operated as one of the largest Orthodox college communities at this university, working to host religious services and programs and creating social events for students. Amid the pandemic, Kedma has not released a schedule for any in-person events.
“We hope that as the semester continues and the weather improves we will be able to have in-person events that would be open to the entire community,” said Eitan Galper, a junior mechanical engineering major and current treasurer of Kedma.
Scott Sandor, a sophomore neuroscience major and current mashgiach, a supervisor of kosher food establishments, stated that if Kedma decides to host in-person events, it will most likely be Tuesday-Night-Torah (TNT) or Purim Megillah readings.
“I believe that holding a form of in-person events, which can be held safely, is critical and valuable to our community. These events should take place as often as possible,” he said.
If Kedma decides to hold in-person events, a 25-person capacity will be enforced. Some in-person religious services have been able to safely congregate and maintain social distancing guidelines by staggering times and dividing individuals into different locations, in what Sandor calls a “minyan-mitosis.”
When the pandemic hit, Kedma, along with other university organizations, was forced to move their activities to virtual platforms. Kedma events held pre-pandemic, such as TNT and KOR (an event combining three of this university’s Jewish organizations, Kedma, Ometz and Ruach) attracted large numbers of students, according to Sandor.
But since the pandemic, virtual events have not generated the same amount of participation as in-person events typically do.
“[In-person events] were such a great way for members of our community from different affiliations to meet each other,” said Sandor. “These events were so popular amongst UMD Jewish students and it’s really upsetting to me that we are currently unable to hold events to that caliber.”
“It’s harder to motivate people to come to events on Zoom as they do not have the same appeal as in-person activities,” added Ayelet Fried, a freshman undecided major and current fundraising chair of Kedma. “Unless the event is a classic event of the semester, participation is usually significantly decreased for Zoom activities.”
Still, with new COVID-19 cases rising, Kedma’s main focus is to continue hosting virtual events and services for students, as early COVID-19 spikes at the beginning of the year jeopardized the thought of hosting in-person events.
Despite the pandemic setback, Sandor is confident that the members of this university and of the Jewish community are working hard to stay safe.
“I think [the outbreak] was a strong wake-up call for members of our community to start taking responsibility for our actions and continue doing what we can to keep each other safe … people have been taking COVID-19 very seriously and have been adhering to the guidelines,” he said.
“I think holding these events even during the pandemic and on Zoom is really important,” Fried added. “These events can still be a lot of fun and bring the community together which is really the primary objective, COVID-19 or not.”