Dear Congregation Beth Israel family,
Like so many other institutions, Congregation Beth Israel has had to learn quickly how to move our prayer, educational and communal experiences online. It is difficult not to gather with community in the ways we are accustomed. But such is the resiliency and creativity of the Jewish people – we have found new ways to engage and connect. Many have told us how meaningful these efforts have been, how they have erased some of the barriers to participation and brought us, somehow, closer together.
As the summer progresses and, sadly, the pandemic which brought us to this point has not abated, we join with synagogues around the country and the world in recognizing that the High Holidays this year will have to be experienced very differently than it has in the past. The idea of gathering our entire congregation of over 860 families into our beautiful, historic sanctuary does not seem possible. While we could potentially limit the number of people present, that exclusivity goes against our ideals of inclusion.
Instead, we are exploring new and creative ways to experience the High Holidays at Congregation Beth Israel through online services. We will respect the beauty and majesty of these “Days of Awe” as well as of our sanctuary. Our clergy have been deeply engaged in conversation and education with the Union for Reform Judaism and Rabbis and Cantors from around the world. We are lifting best practices which are being tested and developed, and adding our own creativity, passion and knowledge of our community.
We know that something will be lost through this virtual reality, but something will also be gained. We anticipate services which will be more inclusive, more engaging and free of some of the barriers which can get in the way of spiritual connection. One piece of good news: everyone gets the best parking spots!
Over the next several weeks we will be sharing more details and a few previews and glimpses of what promises to be an exciting experience. We will offer technical tips on how best to connect, how to create a worshipful space in your home, and how to engage family members of all ages before and during the holidays. We will have more choices in what you can experience and at what time of day.
We will also be putting out requests for you to film messages to the congregation and sing parts of the service which we will incorporate into the community experience.
We will also have an opportunity for you to borrow prayer books to use during the services.
In the meantime, we encourage you to participate in our online Shabbat services. This will give you experience in using the technology for worship services.
We have all had to make major adjustments in our lives during this historic era. As Jews have done throughout the ages when faced with challenges, we have adapted. Thank you for being our partner in this unique time. We miss you and send you blessings for a sacred and hopeful New Year.
We miss you and send you blessings for a sacred, healthy, and hopeful New Year.
Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana
Cantor Ida Rae Cahana
Rabbi Rachel L. Joseph