Ep 5 Worship During A Pandemic: A Hindu-Jewish Conversation

How can faith leaders continue to offer hope, comfort and presence while being physically separated? How can we create new ritual, often mediated through screens to grieve, celebrate and mark time?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are experiencing grief on individual, communal, societal, and global levels. At the same time, our country is having heated conversations about whether faith communities can safely meet in person.

In this episode, which was recorded in late April, hear a conversation between Neha Markanda and Rabbi Jennifer Hartman talk about being faith leaders in the time of COVID-19. They discuss holding grief and gratitude simultaneously. They express the difficulty of postponing huge milestone markers and celebrations and the heartbreaking work of conducting funerals online. This is a touching and poignant interfaith conversation about faith communities gathering, celebrating and grieving in new ways, holding onto what makes us human. Conversation partners Neha and Jennifer were participants in the first cohort of the Collegeville Institute’s Multi-Religious Fellows program.

Topics discussed in this episode: ​ ​

  • Technology fatigue
  • Holding both grief and gratitude
  • Young adults and postponing milestone markers
  • Maintaining rituals despite physical distancing


Neha Markanda sits on the Hindu Society of Minnesota board as the Strategic Planning Chair. She has been a volunteer at the temple since its Maple Grove, MN doors first opened in 2006 and has held various positions. Neha was also a co-founding teacher of Hindu American Temple School, where she taught children for nearly a decade. She believes Hindu temples, like the one in Maple Grove, are a beautiful abode and a mirror that reflect we are not bodies, faint minds, or material souls; rather beloved extensions of God. Professionally, Neha holds a MBA from the Carlson School of Management and is a trained Management Consultant working for a medical technology company. She helps organizations excel in business strategy and operations. Neha has worked with organizations such as Pfizer, State Street Global Advisors, Ameriprise Financial, McGladrey, McKesson, Target Corporate and Cargill in a global capacity. In her spare time she enjoys running, volunteering, traveling, cooking and entertaining family/friends.

Rabbi Jennifer G. Hartman was born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, just outside Cleveland. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Religion from the University of Rochester. She was ordained at the Hebrew Union College (HUC) in New York City in 2010 and earned a Master’s Degree in Religious Education from HUC in May of 2011. Rabbi Hartman brings a passion for Jewish education and engagement to Temple Israel, where she has served as Rabbi for over 6 years. She firmly believes that if we allow it to, Jewish text can inspire us and guide us, helping us to become the fullest human beings possible. Rabbi Hartman passionately serves the community as a board member of Herzl Camp, Jewish Family and Children Services and Yachad Community High School.

Ellie Roscher is a writer, theology teacher, and host of the Unlikely Conversations podcast. She is a board member at the Collegeville Institute and the author of 12 Tiny Things, Play Like a Girl, and How Coffee Saved My Life. Ellie holds an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in Theology from Luther Seminary. She lives in Minneapolis with her spouse and sons. Find out more about Ellie on her website and follow her on social media at @ellieroscher [TwitterInstagramFacebook].

Matthew Ian Fleming edited the audio for this podcast. You can find Matthew on Instagram at @matthewianfleming and his other podcasts at www.alterguild.org.

Next Steps

Further Conversation

  • How have/had you experienced grief during the time of the pandemic? How have you expressed that grief?
  • What role, if any, has/had your faith community played during the stay at home orders?
  • How might the pandemic be an opportunity to think differently about communal gathering, ritual, mourning and celebrating?
  • After listening to Jen and Neha, what are you curious to know more about?

Happy Tangents

  • That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief: Read the article Rabbi Hartman referenced and talk about points that resonated with you.
  • Try Praying Both Sides – You can feel two things at once and they can both be true. You can also pray two things at once and have both prayers be true. Where are you feeling grief and gratitude today?