From the Rabbi’s Desk August 2021
Rabbi Carla Freedman
What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time (on the Jewish calendar, in particular), we were preparing for the High Holy Days, knowing that it would not be safe to bring the congregation together in our building, because of Covid-19.
So, our tech maven, Dan Barwick, determined (with advice from some experts) what we would need to bring the High Holy Days services to the congregation instead of vice versa. The Board authorized the expenditures, Dan ordered the equipment and he, with his wife, Alla, Jon Gamson, and Bob Cobe, set up, installed and connected all the pieces. Then our tech team, consisting of Nina Malinak, Robin Kitzmiller, Delyse Axinn, Donna Weiner, and of course, Dan Barwick, worked to learn how to operate all the pieces, and produce livestreamed services. To our relief and delight, it all worked, and though the Cantor and I were alone in the sanctuary, we were able to present the High Holy Days services to our community.
That was also the beginning of our effort to connect with every household in the congregation, via the delivery of seasonally appropriate goodie bags…thanks to the inspiration of Robin Kitzmiller and the organization of Donna Weiner. Remember the apple, the honey, the card?
After Yom Kippur, we continued to bring services to you, via Zoom…for Shabbat, Sukkot, Simkhat Torah, Chanukah, Purim, Pesakh, and Shavuot. The delivery elves brought a “latke wanna-be” (a tiny raw potato), a sufganiyah (jelly donut) and a dreidl to you for Chanukah. They brought home-made hamantashen (made by Sandy and Sam Zians) and a grager to you for Purim. And the Never-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players brought skits to you during our Purim, Pesakh, and Shavuot observances (featuring Cyd Charrow, Susan Dogan, Barbara Nova, Larry Greenfield, Faye Nepon, and Jon Gamson).
The Program Committee brought us a variety of entertainments, and lots of us “tuned into” educational presentations by a wide variety of organizations. We held classes as always, and Torah study, too.
We kept busy.
All of these activities (except, obviously, the delivery of goodie bags) were conducted by Zoom. One real bonus of that was the opportunity to socialize a bit before Shabbat services…some called that half-hour “the chat”, while others referred to it as “the cacophony”. It did give us the chance to see each other, and perhaps be reassured that we were not really alone, though we sat isolated in our own homes still.
And here we are, a year later, the vast majority of us fully vaccinated, the incidence of Covid cases dramatically reduced (despite the arrival of dangerous variants), and people resuming normal activities: dining indoors in restaurants, traveling, having social get-togethers. The tech team has expanded, to include Jeanne Shanin, Ed Berkun, and Sandy Zians; we hope that will enable us to give the crew some opportunities to attend services, which they haven’t done in a year.
Beginning in May, we resumed livestreaming of Shabbat services, and beginning in June, we reopened the building gradually, to return to being a community again. Since livestreaming does not accommodate interactivity, we ended “the chat” before services, and reminded you that when you come to temple in person, you can spend that half hour talking (behind a mask, yes) to your temple friends in person! And we have inaugurated a version of the Oneg Shabbat, the after-service social time, by offering goodies outside the building (so masks can be removed), under the canopy, so we can schmooze a bit before heading home. We call it a mini-Oneg Shabbat, (thanks to Jo-Ellen Bromberg, who got that rolling).
It is important to note that attending services in person achieves a number of things. Yes, we’ll have a physical minyan once again. Yes, we can read Torah, again. Those are very important. Equally important are the less obvious benefits of in-person attendance at services. It is really wonderful to sing our prayers together again. It is very moving, to be in our own spiritual home (after visiting many others via Zoom all year. It is a powerful assertion of the fortitude of Am Yisrael, the people of Israel, that, despite this year of isolation, we are a community.
But getting there on Friday evenings requires some effort on your part: dressing to leave the house, driving, parking the car, and putting on a mask. Though the service is the same whether in-person or via livestream, the experience is richer and fuller when you shareit with other people. Their presence is a gift to you, as yours is to them.
So I encourage you to bring the year of isolation to an end by joining us in the sanctuary on Friday evenings. It will lift your spirits. It will refresh your soul. It will renew your connection to our traditions, our people, and our place.
See you soon.
From the Rabbi’s Desk, continued from page 10.