Dear Beth Yeshurun Community,

This letter contains information on many important topics.
  1. City of Houston Health and Harris County Guidelines and Guidance for Individuals at Higher Risk
  2. Important Changes for the Immediate Future at Beth Yeshurun
  3. Updates on Events and Programming on campus
  4. Words of comfort
  5.  A Jewish prayer for healing in the coronavirus epidemic

The situation as you know is quickly evolving and we want to be sure to provide you with the latest information and guidance from Congregation Beth Yeshurun. We strongly encourage community members to keep themselves well-informed. Please note that you should always follow guidance and directive from Governmental agencies, including the City of Houston and Harris County we well as the U.S. Government and CDC. Recommended links include:

We have been in frequent contact with health experts and community leaders and we have been monitoring the steps taken by synagogues in Houston and around the United States. The Beth Yeshurun Executive Committee met this evening and implemented the changes discussed below.

1.       City of Houston Alert and Guidance on individuals at Higher Risk

On Wednesday, March 11, the City of Houston Health Department issued guidance in light of the emergency declaration issued by Mayor Turner. The City of Houston (and CDC) recommends that people in these higher-risk categories avoid large groups of people as much as possible, particularly where there will be close contact with others. I ndividuals who are in higher-risk categories are defined as:
  • People who are over the age of 60
  • People with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
  • People who have weakened immune systems
  • People who are pregnant.

2.       Important CBY Changes for the Immediate Future

Consistent with the City of Houston and CDC guidance, we encourage individuals in the above categories to refrain from physically attending services or programs at Beth Yeshurun. It is requested that only those who need to say the Mourner’s Kaddish, or those invited to our B’nai Mitzvah, attend services on campus. However, please know that during this time, Jewish law does allow one to fulfill Kaddish through our live streaming.

These guidelines have been created to meet our responsibilities to you and your health, and are consistent with the City of Houston’s current requests for houses of worship to limit gatherings for worship for the time being.

This is uncharted territory. The Jewish concept of  Pikuach nefesh  — saving lives — is imperative. Community begins with saving lives – so we cannot hesitate to cancel programs, socially distance ourselves, and await the time when we can embrace safely again.
Service Changes for the immediate future:
  1. To respect and honor the hard work of our B’nai Mitzvah students and families, all B’nai Mitzvah services will continue Friday nights and Saturday mornings. A kiddush lunch will only be provided to the families and guests of the B’nai Mitzvah.
  2. To allow people to say the Mourner’s Kaddish, we will continue to provide a weekday minyan. Breakfasts that are normally served following the morning minyan service will be suspended until further notice.
  3. For this upcoming Shabbat March 14th, there will be no J.B. Greenfield Chapel or Museum Minyan Service. However, we are working to be able to live stream both Chapel and Museum Minyan Services, beginning the following Shabbat March 21st
  4. The live streaming of our services can be found on our website by clicking here and on our social media pages. In an effort to allow those joining us virtually to participate more fully, links to excerpts from our Siddur Lev Shalem and our transliterated booklet can be found on the same sites as our streams. If you are interested in borrowing or purchasing a siddur for home usage please contact us at 713.666.1881

City of Houston and Harris County Health Departments recommend maintaining a six-foot distance between people. All B’nai Mitzvah services will be held in the Barg Sanctuary to allow those attending to spread out and provide a safe distance between people. Our weekday Chapel Services will be held in the Freedman Levit Sanctuary. All services will be live streamed so congregants can safely participate.

3.       CBY Events and Programming have been Suspended for the Immediate Future

To protect the health and safety of all our members, we are suspending all campus programming until further notice. However, we are currently drawing up plans to provide dynamic online learning, classes, and discussion groups with our clergy. Please monitor your email and the Beth Yeshurun website for updates.

4.       Words of comfort

In the weeks ahead, we will do our utmost to provide maximal support for our community. We will continue to share ways, new and old, to connect with and pray and learn with us.

Even as we take precautionary measures, Beth Yeshurun will continue to provide counseling services. If you are feeling stressed or worried, please know that all of our rabbis and cantor are available to talk. 

Now is a time to turn to our tradition and God. The values of our tradition that have carried the Jewish people through so many previous crises will carry us again. 

So, wash your hands. Get plenty of sleep. Take care of yourself. And take care of one another, too. Find ways, safely, to embrace those who are in need of healing. Bring them your love, your heart, your support.

5.       A Jewish prayer for healing in the coronavirus epidemic

If you like, say this prayer with us tomorrow night online toward the end of our service at approximately 6:40 pm or feel free to recite this prayer with your families or yourself at any time.

Harachaman, Compassionate One, You are "rofeh chol basar umafli la’asot," healer of bodies, who does wondrous deeds.

The wondrous bodies that You have made for us now feel more fragile. The openings by which we perceive Your world now feel more vulnerable.

We are anxious and frightened by the uncertainty of what is to come. We love the lives we lead, and we fear what disruption may come. We love our friends, families, and neighbors, our children and our elders, and we fear what illness may come.

We pray for healing, of body and of spirit, speedy and complete, for all those who are ill from the coronavirus, both far from us and close to home.

Strengthen the hands of our caregivers. Give of Your healing powers to our medical personnel and mental health professionals. Give of Your wisdom to our decision makers and public health officials.

Strengthen our hearts to confront this challenge. Give us of Your discipline, that we may not yield to panic and dread, but may protect ourselves with appropriate precaution and calm determination. Give us of Your compassion, that we may not yield to prejudice or bigotry, but may reach out to our neighbors with kindness and solidarity.

We are grateful for our bodies and the life You have given us. We are grateful for our communities and congregations who see us and support us. We are grateful for those who are working to protect us. We are grateful for Your love and Your sheltering presence. We know we are not alone. 

Rabbi Brian Strauss, Senior Rabbi
Andy Burger, Executive Director
Jerrad Bloome, President

Informational Links regarding COVID-19