April 3, 2020

Notes from the Field
By Joni Pico, MA, MSW
JSS Case Manager

I’m so thankful that my entire adult life has been filled with the rewards of being a social worker. Although my usual day has changed for the moment, I typically work in an office with telephones, computers, photocopiers, and really wonderful and supportive people. Of course, this is naturally the “way” of social workers and the rest of the great folks here at JSS.

A fulfilling aspect of social work is being able to jump in your car and visit with people in public gathering places, as well as in their homes. Social workers have a strong commitment to making connections with people, wherever we can! The physical distancing that we are presently respecting to fight COVID-19 may be altering our typical way of doing things for now, but we are still up and running and available to remain in contact with each of you.

Over the past two weeks, I have appreciated chatting with many of you by phone. I value your thoughts about what is happening in our country, and around the world. I also love listening to you talk about how you are doing, and admire your steps toward remaining contentedly occupied through this isolation. Everyone with whom I have spoken is committed to staying in place.

As still new kid on the JSS block, I am not only a social worker, but also a Jewish Communal Professional. Brandeis University conferred my degree twenty years ago, sending me into the world to do my utmost to provide professional Jewish leadership when and where I can.

I am especially proud of the gift that my graduation donated to Brandeis. Our class made something that resembles Torah. We selected a quote from Hillel and then prepared commentary on his words. Hillel said, “Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not be sure of yourself until the day of your death. Do not judge your fellow man until you have been in his position. Do not say anything unless its full meaning and implication are understood immediately. And do not say, ‘ When I have leisure time I will study,’ for you may never have leisure.” The installation hangs at the university. I have a small reproduction which I framed and has been hanging on my wall at home ever since.

As much as our physical separation saddens me today and will again during Passover, Hillel reminds us that we are a PEOPLE, no matter what. We are also a bonded community. We are calling and holding each other up during unprecedented times. Our gratitude for good deeds is deep.

Though these days are not leisurely, I have heard people making projections about what we may be learning from the pandemic and from all of humanity right now. Contemplative time is sometimes inspiring, and it is sometimes healing. There are resources for study and thought that JSS can steer you toward. Sometimes even the smallest effort yields great results. If I can provide you with a few suggestions for learning, please contact me at 608-424-4568 or email me at joni@jssmadison.org . I would love to hear from you. Any time!

Thank you for your thoughtful care of all.

Shabbat shalom