Days of Awe in the Age of COVID

Days of Awe in the Age of COVID

What a difference a few days makes. At this point in our pandemic journey, none of us should be surprised – and yet we are! – at the changing circumstances we encounter. Here at Temple we recently sent you a postcard with the clergy unmasked and joyfully welcoming you back to the sanctuary. A week later the Multnomah County Commissioner and then our Governor announced mask mandates for all indoor gatherings.

We are adjusting. And maintaining our responsibility to keep everyone safe.

On Yom Kippur morning, Reform tradition has us read a section of Torah from the book of Deuteronomy which includes the phrase:

This day I call heaven and earth to witness regarding you: life and death I have set before you, blessing and curse. Choose life—so that you and your children may live— (Deut. 30:19, translation: Mishkan haNefesh p. 268)

Choose life. It is an active choice we make to keep each other safe. The rabbis teach us in applying this concept, the connection to another verse:

You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which a [person] shall live. . . (Lev. 18:5)

V’chai baHem – you shall live by them. No Jewish practice is meant to put a person in danger, and it is our responsibility to keep each other safe. Rarely has this been so true.

In light of this Jewish concept of Choosing Life and living by our practice, we have made a few decisions regarding the High Holidays. Vaccines remain the best protection against serious symptoms, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19 and the Delta variant. We strongly urge that those attending services be vaccinated. However, we know that there a many in our community, particularly children under 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated. Many of our congregants have expressed concern about being together in person for the High Holidays when they have children or others in their family who are unvaccinated.

Therefore, we are making the following modifications to our High Holiday service plans.

These decisions have been made in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority.

  1. ALL Rosh Hashanah services will be held outdoors; we will update the community about Yom Kippur services as circumstances evolve and we finalize decisions.
  2. Masks will be required at all services. Even though transmission risks are low outdoors, we do not have the ability to enforce social distancing. The additional precaution of masking will help insure everyone’s safety.
  3. We are requesting advance reservations so that we can determine how many will be in attendance at every service. It is possible that we will have to adjust our schedule depending on the response. Please register at https://www.bethisrael-pdx.org/register-rh
  4. All services will have a live streaming option for those who prefer to remain at home. As always, bethisrael-pdx.org/cbi5782 will your most up to date resource for all things High Holidays at CBI.

With these adjustments, we anticipate a beautiful, meaningful and safe High Holidays. Thank you for understanding and staying engaged and connected with our sacred synagogue community.

May 5782 be a year of health and strength for us all.

Shalom,

Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana
Senior Rabbi

Cantor Ida Rae Cahana
Senior Cantor

Rabbi Rachel L. Joseph
Associate Rabbi

Cantor Rayna Green
B’nei Mitzvah and Family Educator