These are very anxious times indeed and I want you to know that the JCC board and I are concerned for your physical and mental health and wellbeing. As you probably know by now, out of care and caution, we have decided to cancel all, in-person, JCC activities for the next 30 days, including services, classes, meetings, and, community Seder.
This decision was made after much careful consideration of the facts as we know them today, the guidelines of the CDC, and with a goal of ensuring the health and safety of our community as a whole.
It is important that every congregant knows that, even if we are not able to be physically together, I am available by phone or Skype or Face Time at any time. While I normally do not use electronics on Shabbat, If you are having an emergency, or are experiencing serious anxiety, I will, based on the Rabbinic notion of "Pekuach Nefesh", "Saving a Life", answer the phone on Shabbat.
Similarly, if you know of anyone who is housebound and needs a call from me, just let me, or the office, know. It is important for you to know that your JCC community is here for you.
Our Sages teach - kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh - the wellbeing of all members of our community is intertwined. So, just as I want to make myself available to you, if you are able, please
call someone who is quarantined.
Donate food to a community food bank to help families whose children's schools are closed. Email a health professional with support and appreciation.
One test of a true community is how we react and treat each other in times of crisis.
Our forced separation has actually provided us with an excellent opportunity to grow and nurture our enormous virtual capabilities.
When it became clear that it would be prudent not to have Purim services at the JCC this year, I determined that we would only cancel if we were able to provide a viable alternative. Our solution was to create a Zoom conference during which we chanted the Megillah live on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. We did so, and it was a great success.
Monday night, high school Junior Zachary Lombardi read the "whole" Megillah cheered on by his sister Kayla. On Tuesday morning their brother, Aaron, a freshman in the Engineering School at Rutgers University, read the entire Megillah while sitting in his car in a parking lot at the school. (Yes, while sitting in his car in a parking lot at the school). I can honestly say that until this pat Tuesday morning, I had never heard a car honk every time the name Haman was chanted.
What a wondrous world we live in where we can do this. We need to send a Kol Hakavod to the entire Lombardi family. I know that their Grandfather, Phil, is smiling from a good spot in heaven.
While the "nachas" we "Shepp" for the Lombardi family knows no bounds, our virtual Purim proved something to us. Though the community had short notice, we had a total of 40 people who heard the Megillah through our Zoom conference. What's more is that if we had not been there, these folks would not have heard the Megillah read this year. This is Phenomenal!!
As we enter these uncertain times, look for us to be increasing the use of our virtual capabilities. Look for added classes, Kabbalat Shabbat services, Havdallah services and more.
Look for an invitation to join our Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday, March 13th at 6:30 pm and for a separate invitation to join our Zoom Havdallah service on Saturday, March 14th at 7:45 pm.
We are going to turn the bad news of not being able to physically be physically, into wonderful news of continued and increased connection through the various virtual options that are now available to us. The silver lining is that we will now find new ways to connect with you and for you to connect with the JCC.
As always, if you have any ideas or suggestions for virtual programming, please reach out to me!
I want to leave us with a few thoughts before I sign off on the bottom of this message.
First an important and necessary intention by Rabbi Yosef Kanavsky:
Every hand that we don't shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern.
Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.
Second, A prayer of Hope During this Pandemic
By Rabbi Naomi Levy:
We are frightened, God,
Worried for our loved ones,
Worried for our world.
Helpless and confused,
We turn to You
Seeking comfort, faith and hope.
Teach us God, to turn our panic into patience,
And our fear into acts of kindness and support.
Our strong must watch out for our weak,
Our young must take care of our old.
Help each one of us to do our part to halt the spread of this virus.
Send strength and courage to the doctors and nurses
In the frontlines of this battle,
Fortify them with the full force of their healing powers.
Send wisdom and insight to the scientists
Working day and night across the world to discover healing treatments.
Bless their efforts, God.
Fill our leaders with the wisdom and the courage
To choose wisely and act quickly.
Help us, God, to see that we are one world,
One people Who will rise above this pandemic together.
Send us health God,
Watch over us,
Grace us with Your love,
Bless us with Your healing light.
Hear us God,
Heal us God,
Third, don't forget to
wash your hands frequently. Here is a blessing for washing your hands during a Pandemic, by Trisha Arlin:
As we wash our hands
Blessed is the Soul of the Universe,
Breathing us in and breathing us out.
May our breaths continue
And our health and the health of all
In this time of sickness and fear of sickness.
We take as much responsibility for this as we can
By observing the obligation to wash our hands
For as long as it takes to say this prayer.
Finally, There is a lot going on; at best, our lives are being inconvenienced. But never lose sight of the fact that there are people who are, and will be, suffering as a result of this thing we are calling COVID 19. It would be easy to let the anxiety or anger get the better of us. Try to breath and consider the good things that still exist in our lives. Love, loved ones, community, and God.
That said, I would suggest that it is okay to kvetch a bit about all of the inconvenience and uncertainty. But, try not to do this excessively.
I am here if you need me. Be safe and be healthy.
Shabbat Shalom - Rabbi Michael S. Jay