ערב שבת ״וְלֹא־יִהְיֶ֥ה בָהֶ֛ם נֶ֖גֶף״ תש׳׳פ
Dear Anshe Sholom,
I share this letter to update the community on our congregation’s plans for Shabbat of Parshat Ki Tisa 5780 (March 13-14). Please read this letter carefully and feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. And,
please check your email immediately prior to candle lighting
in case there is a need to reevaluate these plans in light of rapidly changing circumstances.
As COVID-19 has spread across the world, to Cook County, and to Lakeview, we have tried to implement responsible and reasonable policies that reflect the dynamic spread of a pandemic disease. Just in the past twenty-four hours, the JCC barred us from accessing their building, precluding the possibility of kiddush or children’s programming, and most of the Modern Orthodox congregations in the New York metropolitan area, and in Los Angeles, along with others across the country have reached the painful decision to shut their doors this Shabbat. The State of Israel has also tightened its own restrictions on public gatherings and many shuls will close or constrain attendance.
On Thursday afternoon, Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot called for curtailing all gatherings at which 250 or more attendees are expected (a threshold we cross routinely on Shabbat morning).
Yesterday evening we convened a conference call with ASBI President Linda Saiger and Drs. Dylan Slotar and Stacy Raviv. Dr. Slotar is an Infectious Disease physician affiliated with Community Hospital, Munster, IN. Dr. Raviv is a pulmonary critical care physician at NorthShore University Health System. Both Dr. Slotar and Dr. Raviv are veteran members of ASBI who know how our community functions and how our building operates on Shabbat, and they both are preparing for and combating COVID-19 in their professional lives.
The four of us reached the following tentative conclusions to keep our members safe and prevent us from unknowingly spreading the disease.
It was emphasized that the local healthcare system is bracing for a substantial outbreak in our region and our efforts at “social distancing” – limiting the number of people with which we come into close contact – can slow the spread of the disease so that our hospitals and ICUs will be able to treat all those who will need treatment in the coming months.
We also learned that being in a “crowded” location is a function, not just of numbers, but also of density. Our main sanctuary is spacious and has ample room for each worshipper to be surrounded by several feet of empty space.
We are implementing the following procedures and protocols:
- Friday night tefilot will proceed as usual, but worshippers will be asked to space themselves evenly across the shul to maintain distance between us. (For those learning daf yomi, think of it like the four-cubit domain that surrounds a person on Shabbat).
- On Shabbat morning we will combine the Hashkama Minyan and Upstairs Minyan in one tefilah that will take place upstairs and will begin at 7:45 AM. We expect these tefilot will not be attended by large numbers of people so that a low density can be maintained in shul.
- Those who are at increased risk for COVID-19 should avoid shul this Shabbat and seek medical guidance about whether weekday minyanim are safe. The CDC has advised that those at increased risk include “older adults,” and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease.
- Please bring your own siddur and chumash to shul this Shabbat. If you do not have your own books, please borrow from the shul and keep them with you at home for your own exclusive use for the duration of the pandemic.
- Food for kiddush was ordered earlier in the week. It will be served in the Social Hall by gloved volunteers into take-out containers for worshippers to bring home.
- No children’s programming or babysitting will take place.
- Rabbanit Sarna and Molly Jaret have prepared this guide to a meaningful Shabbat with your children at home and will be hosting a pre-candle lighting “dance party” over zoom at 5:30 PM for our community.
- If you are reciting kaddish and are unable to attend shul, please speak to me about adding the name of your loved one to our Kaddish List. I will use it to recite kaddish at every instance where I am able to do so. If and when we are unable to convene a minyan, please learn one mishnah in memory of the deceased for each tefilah that you are unable to say kaddish. Kaddish is a metaphor for living a life that brings credit to those who shaped us. By acting in a responsible way about our health and the health of others, we honor the deceased. Consider learning the mishnayot of Massechet Shabbat which are being studied by so many others right now as part of the daf yomi cycle.
- Those who are not able to attend shul should read the Torah portion and the special Maftir (Torah - Exodus 30:11-34:35; Maftir - Numbers 19:1-22; Haftorah - Ezekiel 36:16-38), from a Chumash. You can print the parsha here.
- Please let me know if you need financial assistance because of changing economic circumstances. And please let me know if you are in a position to donate money for distribution to members of our community whose livelihood has been upended by COVID-19. The ASBI Torah Fund routinely makes disbursements prior to Pesach and we will need an even greater pool of resources this year. (Checks can be written to ASBI Torah Fund and delivered to the congregation).
- The Chesed Committee is looking for additional recruits to reach out in the coming days to the most vulnerable members of our community to check in with them and assist them as needed. Please let Sara know [via this email address or please click on this link to join the Chessed WhatsApp group] to share in their efforts. Let us know as well if there is any form of assistance that you would appreciate.
In conclusion, I want to encourage us to think of this experience of “social distancing” as a reminder of the ways in which we influence, and are influenced by, one another. While we need to keep our bodies farther apart for now, we do so out of a sense of social responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. While we must take action to prevent our bodies from being a source of harm to others, please reach out to your “shul friends” and community members for pre and post Shabbat phone calls this weekend, and onward in the coming days.
With blessings of Torah and Mitzvot,
Rabbi David Wolkenfeld