Dina Freundlich has returned to China. The Chabad emissary to Beijing has become a symbol of resilience since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
At the very beginning of the pandemic, she and her husband Rav Shimon were interviewed and explained to the entire Jewish world how serious the coronavirus was, and they also assisted many Israelis in leaving China before they finally had to leave themselves. Only now have Dina and her husband received permission to return and reopen their Chabad House.
Dina’s first days back in China were difficult. Everyone had vanished. All the students, business people, El Al personnel, embassy people, tourists were no longer there. She and her husband were accustomed to hosting hundreds on Shabbat, as well as running a Jewish school and a kosher restaurant. Now they have to work hard just to find 10 men for a minyan.
Dina’s summation of her experience in an interview with the Kfar Chabad magazine is especially important:
“At first I almost cried. I compared this year’s High Holy Days to last year’s, how last year we searched high and low for more tables and chairs for all the celebrants.
“But then I understood that my current mission is different: I need to focus on the few people who are here. To establish a closer, deeper, and more familial connection with them. This is the time for one-to-one relationships. Life is no longer a matter of quantity, but of quality.
“Heart-to-heart talks and forging friendships – these are things for which I did not have time before the coronavirus.”
It seems to me that this message is relevant to all of us. Now is a time to look inside and not outside. To understand that this difficult period creates opportunities to develop deeper connections with those around us, to become better acquainted with our nuclear family as never before. The mission for all of us has changed for now.