Standing Together
Apr 23rd 2020

In the 10 years since I joined the Beth Tzedec board, the person I have turned to for advice most often has been my father, Paul Rothstein.

With his 60 years of history at Beth Tzedec and having been a past president, my dad has been a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. The best advice he ever gave me was to trust my gut – if a decision didn’t feel right, then it probably wasn’t. Knowing my dad has had my back every step of my leadership journey at Beth Tzedec has meant more than I can say.

COVID-19 has changed everything. There is no playbook for what we are currently navigating, no past president's wisdom that I can tap into, because we’ve never faced a situation like this before. And so I keep returning to my dad’s advice to trust my gut, but that has been challenging as the situation is so fluid and moving so quickly that any decision made yesterday can already be outdated by today.

How are we managing that fluidity? By keeping three core priorities in our sights.

Fostering a Caring Community. Our spiritual Leadership, lay leadership, staff and a dedicated group of volunteers continue to reach out to our members to check in on their physical, spiritual and financial well-being and to see how they are coping in isolation.

I think this is the most important work we are doing. Every program we host includes a component of “checking in” as we give people an opportunity to connect with one another. As Rabbi Wernick has said– we are practicing spiritual nearness while maintaining physical distance.

Enhancing our Digital Engagement. While we continue to hold Daily Minyan and other programs, we are also wrestling with the question of what it means to build relationships online and how that translates to real life. How do we use this new reality to continue to meet our primary goal of fostering a caring community?

Avenues for engagement are growing as everyone becomes more familiar with Zoom and other online platforms. We must take this opportunity to learn from other institutions who have mastered an online presence to provide multiple portals of engagement, spiritual well-being and community. As with everything we do, we are striving for excellence and are finalizing a task force of professionals and lay leaders to help ensure we have the best digital presence possible.

Emphasizing Membership Engagement and Renewal. This is what keeps me up at night. I know first-hand the financial hardships many in our community are currently facing. I work in the restaurant industry and have been laid off since March 16. Michael, my husband, is in real estate. We have never experienced such a moment in our lives.

There were days in the first few weeks that I simply wanted to pull the covers up over my head. Michael was still saying Kaddish for his father and it took a while for me to rejoin him at Minyan. When I was ready to come back, the smiles and genuine happiness to see me were almost too much to take–I felt my heart would burst.

Our Beth Tzedec community has been a significant part of our spiritual well-being as we navigate this moment. We are so thankful for all of you. The frequent check-ins, kind words of support, kiddush club invites and the multitude of other avenues to connect make me so proud to be a Beth Tzedec member.

I know the next year will present significant financial challenges for each of us as we respond to the economic impact of the virus. It is an anxious time for so many of us, and for our leadership, as we work to ensure the overall financial sustainability of Beth Tzedec in order to protect our kehillah and our connection. We are a strong, vibrant congregation and I am confident that we will weather this storm together.

It is because we are strong and vibrant that I choose to see the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to enhance, strengthen and innovate at Beth Tzedec. It is forcing us to move quickly and thoughtfully.

So, what can we as members do in support of our synagogue at this difficult time? I go back to our three core priorities. Please, share your ideas and join us in our work to care for each other, to enhance our digital presence and to address the challenges of the next six months as a community. As always, you can reach me at

As we all do our part to combat COVID-19, I offer my hope that you and your families are staying safe and wish you good health and well-being. As a caring kehillah, we all stand together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Debbie Rothstein,