Life in Unprecedented Times
Apr 6th 2020

To say that we are living in unprecedented times would be an understatement. I am writing to you from my home office, a room that I have barely left in the last three weeks. I cannot imagine that there is a family in our kehillah left untouched by COVID-19, health-wise or financially.

As we look for a light in the darkness, it is easy to spiral into anxiety and despair. I know that it has been a constant struggle for me over the last three weeks. That is why I have found my connection to Beth Tzedec to be so important at this time in which physical distancing has become a fixture of our lives.

Beth Tzedec leadership, both professional and lay, is always guided by Ron Wolfson’s concept of “Relational Judaism”. The dilemma we now face is how to be relational when we as a community cannot even enter our building, let alone meet face-to-face. Daily Minyan through Zoom has been a touchstone for many.

For example, my husband Michael finished his 11 months of saying kaddish for his father with his BT community virtually. Rabbis Wernick and Fryer Bodzin host “Coffee with the Rabbis” sessions twice a week. Daily Tanakh classes are being held on Facebook. A daily BT Scavenger Hunt is helping kids and their families continue to feel engaged. Last night, a Healing Service was held for members who are front-line workers in the fight against COVID-19. And most importantly, the Spiritual Leadership Team and Beth Tzedec volunteers are in the process of reaching every household in our congregation by phone. With a synagogue our size, it is a huge undertaking but it is essential that you all know that we are invested in your well-being.

We have also had to make difficult decisions given that the future financial implications of this crisis are still not fully known. While the Assistant Rabbi Search Committee was ready to bring a recommendation of hiring Rabbi David Lerner for the position, the lay leadership felt that it would be fiscally irresponsible to be hiring at this time. I can honestly say this was one of the hardest decisions I have been a part of since joining the Board ten years ago. David, Alexis, Magda Rose and Levi have been a constant presence at the shul for the last two years and Rabbi Lerner has done incredible work with our Family Engagement Committee. The Lerners will always be a part of the Beth Tzedec family and we wish them much luck on their new adventure in New York.

On behalf of the lay leadership, I want to express my gratitude to those who are working on behalf of Beth Tzedec as we steer through these uncertain times.

Thank you to the Spiritual Leadership Team, which is working tirelessly to find new avenues of engagement in addition to their usual ritual duties, and who never cease to amaze me with their energy and innovative ideas.

Thank you to Randy Spiegel and his team who, like so many of us, are navigating through the ups and downs of working from home, yet always make themselves available.

Thank you to Brian Dias and his team who continue to maintain our building and keep it operational even though our doors are shuttered.

And thank you to the countless volunteers who are making phone calls, brainstorming programming ideas and offering support to both the professional and lay Leadership. You are all the life blood of Beth Tzedec!

We are living in fluid times; every day we seem to be facing new changes and challenges. Leadership may make mistakes along the way, but we are always working in the best interests of Beth Tzedec, today and every day. I am committed to providing you with regular updates as we all adapt to our new, temporary reality. It is indeed a scary time to be president of Beth Tzedec, but for me it is also a time of immense pride and opportunity.

I wish you all a Hag Pesah Kasher v’Sameah – however you find yourselves celebrating.

Debbie Rothstein