Dear Congregational Rabbis, Cantors, Presidents, Executive Directors, and Educators,
During this time of deep concern about the coronavirus, we have been in communication with many lay leaders, staff, and rabbis serving our affiliates. In this message, we’d like to share some information about what we’re doing to try to be helpful to the leaders of our communities.
Before we do, we want to convey our profound appreciation for how hard so many of you are working to communicate good public health information, convene congregational decision-makers, and make hard decisions. Whether your congregation has opted at this point to continue regular programming but with new building cleaning, personal hygiene, and food handling practices, or whether you’ve decided to suspend all in-person activities at your synagogue for the time being, we see and honor the careful thought and loving concern that you have been putting into these decisions. This is a time when the mitzvah mentioned in the Reconstructionist blessing said before board and committee meetings, which includes the words we bless the One who has given us the mitzvah of caring for the needs of the community, is being carried out with dedication and generosity by people in all of our congregations.
The Department for Thriving Communities is here to help:
- As always, your liaisons, Maurice, Micah, Jackie and I are just a phone call or an email away. Although our building will be closed through the end of the month, we are all working from home and available. We are here to help you think through any and all aspects of responding to this pandemic.
- We are making digital copies of our Kol Haneshamah prayer books available to all who may need access to this pathway to spiritual sustenance in these difficult times. We hope this will be a helpful resource to those of you who will begin offering services online. Community members who do not have a printed copy of Kol Haneshamah can click here to access a PDF file of either the Daily Prayer Book, Shabbat Vehagim or Prayers for A House of Mourning, and follow along with streaming services from home. (You will have the option either to view the file in your browser or download the file to your computer if you prefer.) We have never before offered a free version of our prayerbooks, but we’re inspired by the many examples of information and resource sharing that are taking place across the movement and larger world. We believe this is a moment to lean into generosity and put all the resources we have at our disposal into supporting the spiritual health and well-being of our communities.
- We just hosted a call for executive directors to discuss our communities’ responses to the coronavirus outbreak yesterday afternoon, and we will make the recording available when we have it. We will be hosting our next presidents’ call on this same topic on Sunday, March 22nd, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Presidents, please click here if you’d like to register for this call.
- We are currently seeking information from our congregations that have experience streaming services online or hosting online classes and gatherings. Our intent is to compile some examples of best practices and share that information with all of our affiliates.
- We are exploring what kinds of online offerings we might be able to offer for Jewish prayer and learning to supplement what some of our congregations are providing for their communities. (Also, if your congregation is offering online services or Jewish learning, and you are open to the possibility of welcoming members of other Reconstructionist congregations to join you in virtual community, please let us know.)
- We are inviting people to visit Ritualwell, our movement’s online home for creative Jewish ritual. There you will find several brand new resources that can help ground us in the spiritual wisdom of our tradition. These include A Blessing for Washing Hands During a Pandemic with an accompanying video; a Traveler’s Prayer in a Time of Pandemic; a Ritual for Ending Quarantine or Self-Isolation; and a Virtual Shabbat Box, which we hope will be a supplement to your Shabbat experience as we embrace new and creative ways of being together Jewishly.
As we witness more and more of our communities choosing to cancel all in-person gatherings, it may feel as if we are taking away the thing that is most needed by our congregants in this moment: community. We share the words of Rabbi David Basior, rabbi of Kadima in Seattle as a way to frame this dilemma:
I want to urge you to remember that canceling in-person events does not mean canceling community. Cancel[ing]….does not mean do nothing, stop working, or lose your connections. Community must not – no, cannot – be canceled…Stay connected…Become an advocate for social distancing, not social isolation. Stream services and group study and pastoral groups and individual check-ins…Do not cancel connections nor community… consider the possibility that canceling events will give you the time and energy to enable creative ways to foster community now…when it is deeply needed and people are seeking it.
Together, we will find our way through this. Together, we will share our best practices for sustaining the indispensable medicine of community through this pandemic. We are in this with you.
Tresa Grauer for the entire Thriving Communities Team