Congregational Letter about COVID-19

by Lynn Urbach, President

Dear friends,

Things have been changing so fast as we all respond to COVID-19. We hope that most of you are slowly getting used to this new normal and are doing what you can to stay safe. Rabbi Saks, the board of trustees, and our amazing staff and volunteers are working hard to keep us going. Many of our adaptations are working smoothly, others are a little clunky, and some items remain to be resolved.

Now, more than ever, we need community. We all need some amount of emotional, physical, and/or logistical help. Our community is about just that: being here for each other. Email our office if you can use any help; we have a lot of volunteers eager to help you. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “services” or spiritual person, check out our streaming services. You may be surprised—you may find it meaningful or comforting to join in with familiar prayers and new songs, and to focus on Shabbat for a few hours.

Some of you have asked if we have applied for funding from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the CARES Act; the answer is yes! If the loan is granted, it will cover some of our payroll costs until June 30. Others have written to ask about A Storied Affair. Sadly, we have made the decision to cancel this annual gala. We hope to replace it with a virtual event on May 30.

WE NEED YOUR HELP. This pandemic is costing us financially and we are hurting. Our reimagined spring fundraiser will not bring in as much money as had been expected from A Storied Affair. In alignment with our values, we are continuing to pay our staff as we normally do, even if their hours are reduced. However, income from congregant contributions (and building rentals) has been decreasing, and, depending on the economic impact of COVID-19, that income is not dependable. Please help by making a donation today.
Donate to Bet Ha’am
Our second night community seder will be held online this year. Please join us on Facebook Live. You can join in the same way you would for services. We recently sent resources for you to use to host your own virtual first night seder; please let us know if you’d like us to resend that email to you.

B’nai Mitzvah: Rabbi Saks is working closely with families to reschedule all spring, 2020 Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations. This means there may be some “double” services and some mincha (Saturday afternoon) services. (This is not our minhag, custom, at Bet Ha’am. But it is in other places; my own Bat Mitzvah was a mincha service.)

A Storied Affair: Our major fundraiser is being reimagined. As I mentioned above, we desperately need the money we expected to raise at this event on May 30. Obviously we cannot go on as planned. We hope to have a virtual event and fundraiser on May 30, 2020—stay tuned! We also hope to hold a smaller fundraising event in the fall, on October 24.

Shabbat: Services stream every Friday evening and Saturday morning. Torah study is also being held virtually.

Religious School: Our education director, Sam Spinrad, and our amazing volunteer teachers managed, in two weeks, to turn our school into a virtual school. Classes will be held virtually at least through the end of April; we will reassess then.

Helping others/Tikkun Olam: We have created a mitzvah corps to help people with essential shopping, including for Passover.

Chat with Rabbi Saks: On Tuesday mornings Rabbi Saks hosts a casual Zoom get-together at 9:00. Stop by and say hi, and ask the rabbi your questions.

Office and Building: Our building remains closed. Office staff is working from home, and coming in as necessary to process checks and charges. Chris Skidgel and Ivan Gonzalez are keeping an eye on the building and grounds and taking care of maintenance as necessary.
Details for all of these programs can be found in our weekly email. Please contact Rachel Lefkowitz, (not) in our office, with any questions or concerns, or if you’d like information on joining one of our virtual sessions.

L’shalom u’livriut, to peace, wholeness, and health,
Lynn Urbach, President

Photo by Peter Pryharski on Unsplash

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