The Young Adult Division’s upcoming Shabbat at the Denver Botanical Gardens on December 17 just shows that neither pandemic restrictions nor winter nights can slow them down. From virtual Shabbats to Network & Noshes, YAD continues to provide ways for members of our Jewish community between the ages of 21 and 45 to live Jewish, give Jewish, and lead Jewish.
“One of the things I love about the Jewish community is that we didn’t skip a beat,” said YAD member Adam Laarsen. Along with the volunteer committee that plans, among other things, YAD Shabbats, Laarsen has been working for the past year to create opportunities for young Jewish adults to gather and build community.
YAD’s success during the COVID-19 pandemic surprised even the planners. When Governor Jared Pollis issued a statewide stay-at-home order in March of 2020, YAD pushed back a planned in-person Shabbat celebration, created the first-ever virtual YAD Shabbat, and, according to Laarsen, “Lo and behold, the event attracted dozens of people. It was great to see how the community turned out. We made adjustments, there was no complaining, and the most important thing is that we were getting through the situation together,” said Laarsen.
That early success paved the way for other virtual YAD events and holiday celebrations, including online Hanukkah, Purim, and Sukkot. And with national research indicating that there is widespread participation in virtual programming among the Jewish community, YAD plans to continue to provide opportunities to gather online, even as it begins preparing for a return to in-person events.
The impressive rate of participation for that first YAD Shabbat was a result of the enthusiasm for and familiarity with online meeting technology among JEWISHcolorado’s YAD leaders as much as it was due to a natural inclination to connect when it felt like the world was breaking apart. For Laarsen, an extroverted service industry veteran-turned-CPA, it is the impulse to build community that drives him.
And while we’re all waiting for the all-clear, Laarsen continues to do what he does best: getting more and more young people in YAD and JEWISHcolorado. “I don’t care how you are involved, just that you are involved.”
Register for YAD Shabbat at the Botanical Gardens here.