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What's Personal About Not Gathering In Person

We are taught that to lose a life is as if we have lost the entire world and to save a life is as if we have saved the entire world.

It is our obligation, as a holy congregation to protect life - Pikuach Nefesh - above all else. Attempting to try to meet in person is recognizing that gathering is potentially dangerous, but trying to find the safest way to deal with the danger. After listening to my colleagues, our Board, our congregants, and our medical experts, we will not gather in person until it is safe to do so - that means until there is a vaccine, a cure, or reliable treatment. I do not know how soon that will be, but I look forward to being able to gather again at B’nai Zion.

The fact that the churches are opening should not pressure us into opening. They feel a need to be in person in order to consume the body and blood of their savior. They need to be in person to be making donations - which is how the church survives financially. We do not have similar needs. Jewish congregations rely on congregants to make donations of annual pledges and other tzedakah - knowing that we are supporting the ability to sustain a Jewish community here. Our dues are not based on attending services. Throughout this pandemic there have been births and deaths, classes, cultural experiences, and more. Rabbi Jana also continues to work with the interfaith community - but all of this is done safely while staying at home. 

It is not surprising that some Orthodox and Conservative synagogues have started to cautiously meet in person, because they believe that they need 10 adult Jews in person in order to do most of the things that they feel obligated to do every day. I do not believe that there is anyone in our congregation who feels an obligation to have 10 adult Jews in person in order to say Kaddish for their parents or say their daily, weekly or Yom Tov prayers. I think that each of our congregants believe that prayer can be said anywhere, and does not require a specific number of people in order to pray. The Orthodox Jews also believe that they should not be using electricity on Shabbat or other Holy Days. Even if there are congregants at B'nai Zion who do not want to use the internet as a way of gathering, it is not because they will not use electricity on Shabbat.  

There have been a number of times in history that Jews have survived in greater proportions than those around us because we were keeping God’s Commandments. Jews were hated because we survived plagues when all around us were dying, because we kept small commitments like washing before eating as part of our daily rituals. I pray that this is a time when we survive because we are all keeping God’s Commandment to protect life. Of course, I also pray that people will see us as a "Light to the Nations" and appreciate our example of modeling safe behavior during the pandemic. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, but at this moment, I do not believe it has anything to do with surviving the Covid-19 virus.

I truly believe that this pandemic is a temporary thing. I’m sorry that it’s lasted longer than what is comfortable, but we are going to do the holy thing and continue to protect the lives of our congregants. We will continue to come to you instead of you coming to us. We will continue to have robust, creative services, classes, cultural events, and more online. We will continue to provide alternative options to those who prefer not to gather online.

The longer this has been going on the more people I know who have tested positive, suffered from this virus, or died. We have recently had two Covid-related deaths at B'nai Zion. I lose sleep over the people who are suffering or dying. I could not imagine knowing that someone caught it at B'nai Zion because we chose to gather in person. Most of the people in our congregation are high risk. When I speak to congregants, most let me know that they will not gather in person until it is safe to do so. They do not want to put their lives at risk or others' lives at risk.

I am proud of the way our congregation is handling this unprecedented problem. 

Sat, November 28 2020 12 Kislev 5781