03/13/2020: COVID-19 Update

Shabbat Shalom!

In Psalm 147, which is one of the Psalms recited every day of the Jewish year during Shaharit, the morning service, we identify God as הָ֭רֹפֵא לִשְׁב֣וּרֵי לֵ֑ב וּ֝מְחַבֵּ֗שׁ לְעַצְּבוֹתָֽם - HaRofei lishvurei lev, umhabesh le’atzevotam – God is the one who heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds. It is with the pain of many broken hearts with which we send this communication, not due to physical sickness per se, but because the synagogue is our communal center; it is our Beit Kenesset, place of gathering, that enables and enhances our community by bringing us together to celebrate, to grieve, and to access the Divine together.

The rolling asymptomatic aspect of the Covid-19 virus does makes all planning and real-time communications very difficult, but we’d like to bring everyone up-to-date on what’s happening at Congregation Beth Shalom.

Out of an abundance of caution, and in view of other institutions closing which have an effect on us, we are taking the following conservative actions:

  1. After havdalah this Saturday, March 14, we are closing down all on-site non-religious events, through at least March 27.
  2. We will be holding daily morning and evening minyanim over a Zoom call or eventually over livestreaming. The initial zoom links are https://zoom.us/j/371592518B for the morning minyan and https://zoom.us/j/896828166 for the evening minyan. There will be nobody physically in the building for the services, and the Torah will not be read. We will use the Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat, Festivals, and Weekdays (the “fat” Sim Shalom) prayer book. Copies of this siddur are available to be picked up at the synagogue’s reception desk, if you would like to participate. (If there is no receptionist at the desk when you come by, call the Maintenance phone number listed at the door.)
  3. Tonight’s Shabbat service, as well as tomorrow’s Shabbat morning service, (Men’s Club Shabbat, March 14), will take place as usual. As per yesterday’s email, we encourage people to spread out and try to keep six feet from non-family members, not to kiss ritual items, and of course wash your hands. Shabbat lunch will be boxed and available to take home after the service; please do not congregate in the synagogue building. The early morning minyan and the minhah and ma’ariv minyanim and se’udah shelishit (third meal) will proceed as normal on this Shabbat as well.
  4. Shabbat morning services next week (March 21), including calling Lily Feinman to the Torah as a bat mitzvah will be livestreamed. Shabbat services after that are not yet determined. Details about will follow.
  5. Events scheduled at the synagogue are either cancelled or postponed, or will be transitioned (for the time being) to either Zoom or livestreaming. We’ll keep you as up-to-date as we can on details.
  6. Meetings scheduled will be transitioned to Zoom meetings.
  7. The Early Learning Center will be closed, effective Monday, March 16, through at least Friday, March 27. All staff will continue to be paid during this period. Given that we will be paying the staff, we are planning to keep tuition for families in place, however if this causes financial difficulties to anybody, please feel free to call our Controller, Dale Caprara, to obtain a credit for the time we are closed.
  8. The Joint Jewish Education Program (J-JEP) will not be in operation on Sunday. Sometime shortly after that, they will be moving all of their classes to Zoom. Rabbi Larry Freedman is communicating with J-JEP families on these plans.
  9. Office staff, also continuing to be paid, will work mostly from home, though there may be some staff in the building from time-to-time.
  10. Elegant Edge remains open. Contact them directly with any questions.
  11. The current state of affairs is such that many of us will experience a range of emotions which we may not be used to including a feeling of isolation, dread, depression, etc. Rabbis Adelson and Markiz are leading an effort to address this, and we’re going to try to reach out to people who we feel may need a little extra community connection during this time. Please be in touch if you or somebody you love needs some support.
  12. In the event of a funeral, we will be discouraging shiv’ah visits to mourners in their homes, and will not be holding public minyanim during this time. Condolence calls should be conducted via telephone. Only immediate family should attend the funeral.

Lastly, just a reminder to try to stay six feet away from non-family members and to wash your hands frequently.

It’s important to note that the situation is continually evolving, and we will be re-evaluating in about a week and a half. Although our hearts are broken by this situation, we are grateful that God binds our wounds, and that these measures, though severely limiting our sense of community by proximity, will ultimately save lives. We hope that, under these circumstances, we continue to reach out to each other and support one another in these trying times.

Please feel free to reach out to any of us with any concerns or needs. Have a Shabbat shalom, a Shabbat of peace, and stay safe.

Rabbi Seth Adelson, Senior Rabbi: rav@bethshalompgh.org

Ken Turkewitz, Interim Executive Director: KTurkewitz@bethshalompgh.org

Hilary Yeckel, ELC Director: hyeckel@bethshalompgh.org

Debby Firestone, President: debbyfire@gmail.com