Shalom Chevre—Friends,

We hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.

Usually the summer is a quiet time in the synagogue world, but we are living in extraordinary times and synagogue clergy, staff, and lay-leaders have never been busier. They are caring for congregants and may be struggling with decisions, balancing the well-being of their communities with the desire to open houses of worship, and also planning for the High Holidays.

At Synagogue Council, we are planning programs designed to support the important and difficult work that you do. In the coming weeks we will offer two programs. The first will focus on High Holiday planning, and the second is intended to nurture clergy and lay leaders.
While our various synagogue communities address our pandemic-related challenges differently, each of us must indeed face these challenges. Synagogue Council’s goal is to bring people together across the denominations to learn from each other about our varied approaches to celebrating the High Holidays during this unprecedented time. Our program about planning for the High Holidays, What Makes This Year Different from All Other Years on Tuesday morning, July 21st will feature a moderated panel of rabbis representing various movements. We will discuss planning for the High Holidays beginning with: What are your goals for the High Holiday experience this year? How has the pandemic impacted your goals? After Neila, what do you want people left with? And how are you organizing the logistics to meet those goals? 

Panelists will address challenges, innovations, and unexpected benefits. We will wonder together about the needs of congregants this year and also the impact of the many forms and layers of loss that we have faced and how they may influence the High Holiday experience. And we will attempt to answer questions about messaging regarding changes and adaptations to this year’s High Holiday experience.

Our second program, on Wednesday, August 19 (3:30-5:00 p.m. EDT), will address our very real shared experiences of life during the pandemic: Coping with Uncertainty: Avarnu et Paraoh, na’avor gam et zeh (We overcame Pharaoh and we will overcome this too): Managing Expectations, Coping with Uncertainty, and Caring Remotely.

During this program, facilitated by Rabbi Beth Naditch, we will connect in the wilderness, take stock of our journey, and have safe opportunities to acknowledge ambiguous losses, share concerns and challenges, be heard, listen to each other, and vent. During this program, participants will learn a bit about how the pandemic is affecting us. We will then avail ourselves of break-out rooms in which clergy and lay leaders will meet separately and engage in conversations facilitated by chaplains and social workers. At the end of this program, we will come back together.

We look forward to seeing you on Zoom and to learning together. Please register for these Zoom events via the links above and the Zoom invitation will be emailed to you.

With abundant gratitude for all that you do, all that you give, and all that you are,

Gretchen Marks Brandt
Acting Director
Synagogue Council of Massachusetts
617-244-6506 ext. 12
AREV MA: Deadline July 16th
We are providing an extension for AREV MA grant proposals. The new deadline is Thursday, July 16, 2020. We are also expanding the scope of programs, projects or initiatives to be considered.

The original AREV MA sought to provide synagogues with funding for initiatives that address young leadership (of any gender) and women’s mentorship and leadership. We will continue to accept proposals based on these themes.

Given the challenges of navigating a new reality resulting from Covid-19, Synagogue Council has expanded our AREV MA (Anita Redner Empowerment Vehicle) grants to provide support for new initiatives that seek to strengthen Jewish community or to address the needs of the vulnerable or those under-served due to the necessity to access Jewish community through virtual experiences. A case may also be made for requests that support innovations stimulated by Covid-19 that enhance Jewish community and/or strengthen leadership.

Anita Redner z”l was an extraordinary woman who gently and profoundly touched many lives through her wise leadership, skilled and compassionate nursing, and genuine generosity and kindness. Synagogue Council of Massachusetts honors her memory through the AREV MA (Anita Redner Empowerment Vehicle) grant process.

We hope that you will avail yourself of this opportunity by submitting a grant proposal for a program, project or initiative that will advance any of these goals in your synagogue. AREV MA seeks to award three grants of $1800. Grant proposals are due by mail or email on July 16, 2020.

Camp Yavneh

Erev Yavneh b’Chagigah – A Livestream Benefit Concert featuring Joel Sussman

 Sunday, July 19th 7:00 PM EDT

Invite your friends and family to tune in on Sunday, July 19th at 7:00 PM for Camp Yavneh's Erev Yavneh b’Chagigah – A Livestream Benefit Concert featuring Joel Sussman. Joel is a renowned Jewish songwriter and one of the founding members of the internationally acclaimed Jewish Musical group SAFAM, and has been an integral part in bringing music to Camp Yavneh.

This musical evening, open to the community, will be emceed by third generation Yavneh alum and comedian, Ari Glasgow, and will be filled with ruach and great music. We are raising funds for a place and community we deeply cherish and love that has been around for generations.

Cancelling our summer camp season has had a serious financial impact on Camp Yavneh. We are seeking the full partnership of our community - alumni, camp families, grandparents, and friends - to help us bridge the gap to next summer.  Please join us in supporting Yavneh today.

You can watch the concert on our website starting at 7 PM .  We look forward to seeing you virtually!

Questions? Contact Adina at
Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Brandeis University

Israel and the Pandemic: Economic Impact, Political Response, Social Conclusions

Tuesday, July 21st 12:00 PM-1:00 PM EDT

Amotz Asa-El, Author; Senior columnist and former executive editor, Jerusalem Post; Research fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute

in conversation with:

Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History; Director, Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Brandeis University

This event is part of our Summer Online Series. Advance registration required; the Zoom link will be sent to all registrants the day before the webinar. Learn more.
*If you have an event or initiative that you would like us to include in a future newsletter, please email us at