The Beth Tzedec community continues to inspire me.
My colleagues, friends, lay partners and others are working hard to check in with our congregational community and identify the support they need at this difficult time. In the last two weeks, 80 of us have called more than 1200 Beth Tzedec households to ask how everyone is coping.
We have called:
- 560 households with someone over the age of 75.
- 250 households who we thought may have additional vulnerabilities as a result of the crisis.
- The 75 people who have lost a loved one since Rosh Hashanah.
- Over 80 people for whom we provide regular pastoral care.
- 250 households with a child under the age of 16.
And many of you have called us. Each member of our Spiritual Leadership Team is answering the phone countless times a day—listening, praying, sharing a joke and sometimes just crying together.
How are we coping?
Fortunately, the majority of our community is coping well. Yes, the kids are underfoot, many seniors are learning to use new technologies and most of us are anticipating an unusually quiet Pesah.
And we do have congregants who are isolated and struggling with increased loneliness, who we continue to reach out to; as well as congregants living with food insecurity, who we have connected to UJA Federation for groceries and Passover supplies. We are grateful to be able to send food vouchers to those who need them most.
Despite the small annoyances and the significant challenges facing our kehillah, every person we've spoken to tells us how appreciative they are that we are reaching out. They thank us for the vast array of ritual, educational and social programming we have moved online.
Visit the Beth Tzedec website to join us for daily minyan, a musical Kabbalat Shabbat, a Family Kabbalat Shabbat experience, adult education classes, congregational school, daily Tanakh study, Coffee with the Rabbis, Jewish Meditation and lots more. We're also offering inspiring and informative talks by members of our community on how to care for ourselves and each other during this crisis.
How am I coping?
Really well. The kindness, care and thoughtfulness of our community is incredible to witness. The deep-rooted nature of our tradition gives us a strength and a sense of shared responsibility that we are fortunate to have.
Next week we will sit down for our seders, and although the context may be different, the message is consistent:
"Now we are here, next year we will be in the land of Israel; this year we are slaves, next year we will be free people."
This year, we are here in what seems like a constant state of worry. But we hang on to hope, because hope is a Jewish value.
As one congregant put it, “I've always tried to be positive and have gratitude and this crisis has not broken that. We hold onto any hopeful news we hear.”
Let me conclude with some good news. In the last seven days, I have officiated a bar mitzvah and a wedding, both via Zoom. The wedding in particular required lots of adjusted expectations and halakhic consultation.
But at the end of the day, the happy couple stood together under the huppah and exchanged their vows. It was the highlight of my week. Their love for each other, and their desire to sanctify that love in this moment of uncertainty, is an affirmation of hope.
That, by the way, is why we break a glass at a Jewish wedding. We remember the challenges of history, but the wedding itself is an act of hope. The message is clear: life goes on and we overcome the challenges of the moment by relying on our values to make meaning out of all of life's journeys. Including this one.
How are you coping? Let’s talk.
Rabbi Steven Wernick