Friday, March 13
17 Adar 5780
We are writing to share that we have decided that, in the best interest of the community, we will not hold Shabbat Morning services tomorrow (March 14) or next Saturday (March 21).
As we have indicated from the beginning, we are doing our best to make our decisions regarding synagogue operations based on the recommendations of local, state and national health experts. Sometimes their recommendations clearly direct our course of action. Sometimes they are less clear. Therefore, last night we convened a group of staff and medical experts from within the congregation to serve as our Ad Hoc Covid-19 Task Force to help guide our decision making and ensure that we are acting based on the best information available to us at that moment.
Specifically, when it came to Shabbat morning services, there was no clear answer from the advice of the authorities. We have been advised against gatherings larger than 100 people; our services are usually somewhat smaller. We have been advised to ensure 6 feet distance between people. We could not guarantee this. In addition, our population also has a high percentage of people who are at risk (see below).
After weighing these factors and discussing various ways to mitigate the risk, we finally reached a consensus that even with such measures, there was still a risk we felt was too high.
This was a particularly difficult decision because we know how much we all long to be together in a time of crises. We aim to create virtual opportunities to do so in the coming days. As part of our response, we are also looking into live streaming our services in the future.
We will continue to hold Kabbalat Shabbat services tonight, and weekday minyan will operate as usual. These services, which generally attract 10-25 people, will be held in the Sanctuary to ensure our ability to maintain appropriate space between us.
These are extraordinary times and many things that were unimaginable even a week ago are reality today. We have a responsibility to our greater community to do our part to help reduce the risks of infection.
In addition to cancelling Shabbat morning services, we are also cancelling or postponing most other activities between now and the end of Pesach. We will send out another email later today with more information on the specific plans for each event.
Finally, a word from our parasha,
. In this parasha, we see two shocking events – the people with Aaron creating the golden calf and Moshe’s destroying the tablets. The first is considered one of the greatest sins against God, the latter never even warrants a rebuke from God. Why? When Aaron helped the people create the golden calf, he allowed mass hysteria to overcome what he knew to be right. However, when Moshe broke the tablets, I believe it was a calculated move to demonstrate to the people the severity of what they had done. The lesson I take: when responding to crisis, sometimes we must resort to extraordinary measures. The key is to make sure the measures we take are not based on hysteria, but on careful consideration of the costs and benefits. This is certainly what we have tried to do. I pray we have succeeded.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Marc Israel, Cantor Rochelle Helzner, Sam Freedenberg, Jim Perlmutter and Warren Berger