The past few weeks have been very challenging for our Beth Shalom family. We are struggling to cope with the many ways that our lives have been disrupted by Covid-19. Parents are having to find ways to keep their children engaged in educational activities when schools, including our own ELC and JJEP, are closed, with some on-line classes provided by these schools. Seniors find themselves isolated and away from friends and family. And many of our members face job loss or other financial hardships.
But it is heartening to see the way Beth Shalom members and staff have stepped up to address this challenge during this incredibly difficult time. A Beth Shalom Coronavirus Taskforce consisting primarily of our own physicians and health care professionals has been formed to guide us in our response to the challenges. We have also formed a Community and Connection Taskforce to help our shul keep up with the most current knowledge within our community. This Taskforce has already reached out to hundreds of our members by phone to assess their needs and check in. We welcome your participation in these efforts.
While our building is closed, pursuant to Governor Wolf’s order and common sense in the face of medical emergency, we continue to have a skeleton crew handling issues daily at Beth Shalom. Our Interim Executive Director, Ken Turkewitz, has been a mainstay of our Shul during this time. Modern technology has enabled us to maintain at least “virtual” connections. We continue to have Executive Committee meetings, other standing committees meetings, and regular and special Board of Trustee meetings as needed via Zoom.
Rabbi Adelson has provided immeasurable support. Prayers, learning and other programming have moved to Zoom. Sixty families participated in Rabbi Adelson’s most recent Shabbat BaBoker children’s service, which connects our preschool children, their friends, parents and teachers. And more than one hundred families have participated in our online religious services that are held every weekday and on Shabbat. We invite you all, including non-regular Shul goers, to attend.
We have been participants in numerous online workshops with UJF professionals at the national and local level, as well as other members of the community, to help us to get financial assistance during this emergency so that we may be able to meet our ongoing needs, especially continuing to pay our employees. Our controller, Dale Caprara, has spent inordinate amounts of time trying to navigate the incredibly complicated and endlessly frustrating bureaucratic process to access government loans available to us through the most recent emergency legislation which offers the Paycheck Protection Program. Dale has been an invaluable resource.
While we continue to operate during these difficult times, it is hard to overstate what significant financial pressures now confront us. Only a few weeks ago it seemed as if we could look forward to a greater measure of economic stability, which might have allowed us to begin tackling the most immediate facilities’ needs confronting Beth Shalom. Now we are in a wholly new situation of financial stress. A number of issues and projections have already arisen regarding lost revenues in our preschool, facilities rentals and the financial pressures of our lessees. We all realize this is a difficult situation and we hope to receive government sponsored loan assistance. But to help us through this challenging time I am asking you, if you are at all able to do so, to accelerate your payment of this year’s annual contribution, centennial pledges, and Yahrzeit appeals - rather than stretching it over the rest of 2020. We truly appreciate the hardship many families have faced already and hope those who are able will continue to support Beth Shalom.
As Passover is now upon us, the first of the Four Questions– “Why is this night different than all other nights” - has particular significance. This year that question has a truly different meaning for all of us. To consider this and other such matters, you are invited to share in Rabbi Adelson’s Second Seder on Zoom.
I know that each member of the Beth Shalom community will join in to pull us through this crisis. I look forward to the day when at least a semblance of “all clear” returns and we can celebrate ourselves – and together - and share our gratitude for having surmounted this challenge.
I wish you and your families, wherever they are, a Happy and Kosher Passover.