Our Torah portion this week, Vayakhel, begins with these words: “Moses brought the community together.” (Exodus 35:1) During this time when we have to severely curtail our physical proximity to each other, it’s ironic that our Torah portion is about communal togetherness. The next verse, however, reminds us to observe Shabbat and points us in the direction of how we might come together despite our physical isolation from each other. In order to observe Shabbat, Jewish tradition teaches us we are supposed to refrain from certain activities we typically do like traveling, writing, building, and making things. Our tradition also instructs us to do different things on Shabbat like light Shabbat candles and eat special meals in order to distinguish Shabbat from the other days of the week.
The spread of COVID-19 is forcing us to have an extended break from our normal weekday activities. It’s not exactly a Shabbat filled with joy and relaxation, but, like Shabbat, there’s a list of things we must do and another list of activities we must refrain from doing. In order to keep all of us safe and well, we can’t go about our lives in a normal fashion like going to work and school, sitting in our favorite coffee shop, catching a movie, or hugging a friend, among other activities. And there are the new routines we need to get used to like washing our hands many more times than we used to.
But there are also other things we can and should do to decrease our social isolation and enhance our connection. Although we need to keep our physical distance, it’s critical that we connect in other ways. (I’ve been calling it physical [not social] distancing/social connecting.) Because of this extended break from our normal activities, we are working overtime at Beth Emet to make sure we can continue to connect with each other and create a sense of community. We are reaching out to those in our community who are isolated or most vulnerable to getting sick, meeting virtually, moving classes online, streaming worship services, and developing other creative ways to connect.
In this Emetmail, you will find ways to connect to the Beth Emet community. We encourage everyone to join classes and participate in worship. Even if you didn’t have time for classes in the past, please feel free to join now. On Friday, we sent out information on how people can volunteer to help others in the community. You will find that information and a link below to volunteer your services, ask for support, or let us know about someone in the community who could especially use support.
The Klei Kodesh (Rabbis London and Memis-Foler, Cantor Cotler, Marci, Kathy, Maia, Bekki, and Marla) are also creating content, video and the like, for people to access. We will be posting this content as well as other ways to connect on the
Beth Emet Facebook page
and on the front page of our
(please scroll down to the Highlights section).
Our first offering is a healing service that the Evanston Interfaith Clergy and Leaders taped over the weekend.
You can watch the
More will be coming soon.
No programs or worship services will be meeting in person. If you need to come to the building for something, please contact a member of the Klei Kodesh first to ensure you can get into the building. All of the staff can be reached via email or you can leave a voicemail for any of us and we will get back to you. Email addresses are first initial, last
(eg. mine is
). We will also be sending emails to the congregation twice a week—on Tuesday and Fridays—so please check your email for updates.
I’m so appreciative of the Klei Kodesh and the whole staff who have been working tirelessly to keep things going at Beth Emet in this new “normal.” I’m also grateful for the partnership of lay leadership and everyone who has stepped up to volunteer. We ask for your patience while we put systems in place. I’ve been heartened at the outpouring of warmth, understanding, and concern from so many in our community. We really have an awesome, caring congregation! I look forward to connecting with all of you soon.
With prayers for health and well-being.
Rabbi Memis-Foler offered the following prayer at last night’s virtual board meeting. She thought you’d appreciate it.
Prayer for a Pandemic
By Cameron Bellm
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.