COVID-19 and Bikur Cholim

Anafim (“Branches” for 2nd-3rd grades) children are deep into the heart of our Bikur Cholim (Visiting Sick People) theme. As in any other theme, children are bringing their unique perspectives and experiences into dialogue with our Jewish texts within a community of their peers. Throughout the year we’ve seen glimmers of the way that children are processing their pandemic lives through our themes. In our spring theme, in particular, children’s thoughts and feelings about COVID have surfaced.

Even in the first week of our Bikur Cholim (Visiting Sick People) theme, children expressed concerns about how to safely visit a person who is sick. In their buildings and animations of our texts, the visitor worries about catching the illness and the sick person fears spreading their germs.

  • One child explained that maybe a sick person didn’t receive a visitor because, “they (the visitor) probably didn’t want to get sick.”
  • Another child said that in a pandemic, it could be difficult to visit every single sick person: “It was something like coronavirus where it’s dangerous and there’s too many people sick to visit everybody.”
  • And a third child spoke from the perspective of the sick person: “I hate being sick. I am lonely but I don’t want to get my friend sick so I’m not gonna have them over so I’m really sad and I’m lonely.”
The acorn caps in this second grader’s building represent face masks worn by parents who are taking care of their child sick with COVID.

This week we took on a text from the Shulchan Arukh about visiting contagious sick people, and Anafim children had opinions.

  • One second grader was absolutely horrified that the text could suggest that a sick person not be visited in-person. He felt that a visit to the home was at least an acceptable compromise and that the visitor wasn’t “being mean” and worrying about themselves.
  • One third grader has continued to suggest that Zooming a contagious person would be easier than an in-person visit.
  • Another third grader disagreed with the text and said that the visitors should go into the sick person’s room while wearing masks: “I feel like masks might do the trick, like wearing a mask and social distancing in the room. They can hear each other and talk to each other.”
Send a letter instead of visiting

Underneath each comment, children are wrestling with their own pandemic comfort level. Some children stand firm that visiting a sick person is more important than the visitor’s own discomfort. Other children look for compromises to protect the safety of both the sick person and visitor. Anafim, how strange to have spent so much time in the last year thinking and worrying about contagion. I’m glad that our theme has offered you an opportunity to voice the questions and ideas in your brains and hearts.

It’s hard to get a screen shot when we’re very busy building.

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