Notes to the Congregation regarding COVID-19
March 24, 2020
28 Adar 5780
Dear TBE family,
We’ve been using the word “unprecedented” more than I can ever remember, and it’s true. We are all trying to respond to a situation unlike anything we’ve dealt with in our lifetimes. Not necessarily worse than anything, but certainly different. At Temple, we believe it’s vital for us to take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of our community … while also maintaining our spiritual and emotional well-being.
I realize there are a lot of details below, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn about our current situation regarding Temple:
Yesterday, the Governor issued her “Stay Home Stay Safe” order. As a result, we have decided to formally close our Temple building for now. Our staff, led by Executive Director Daniel Mesa and Building Director Damon Kaigler, will make sure the facility is secure and kept up properly so that it is ready to open once we are allowed.
Also, in adherence to the Governor’s order, our cemetery is now closed for all purposes except for funerals. Obviously, we will continue to provide for our most basic functions as a Temple, but all other uses will need to be postponed. Our Cemetery Superintendent, Joe Winter, is coordinating funerals, as usual, and also making sure that the facility is ready at all times while much of our staff remains home.
As we have said previously, our people are the most important part of Temple. More than a week ago, we initiated our “TBE Heart2Heart” project of personal phone calls to every Temple member. You may already have received a phone call from our clergy, staff, Board, or Caring Community volunteers … and if not, you will very soon! We want to check in to see how you’re doing, find out if there are any specific needs you may have, and make sure you are connected to the various opportunities through Temple at this time.
Worship is meant to be a communal activity, but it is also a deeply personal experience. Especially at this time, when we are all dealing with the anxiety of Coronavirus and the ramifications of isolation, gathering together for Shabbat is exactly the sort of approach that Jewish tradition has long envisioned. This weekend, we hope you will join us:
Friday night – a brief but full Shabbat service with our clergy, including beautiful music, soulful prayers, and thoughtful words.
Saturday morning – rather than a full service, we will offer a weekly Torah study starting at 10:30 am. If you would like to be part of the discussion, you can do so by joining our Zoom conversation (instructions will be sent out separately). Otherwise, tune in to our regular TBE Livestreaming page (https://www.tbeonline.org/video-streaming) to listen in … and at 11:15 am, we will join together for an opportunity to say Mourner’s Kaddish – ending with blessings over wine and challah.
Our staff has been hard at work presenting a wide range of virtual programmatic opportunities for all ages. We are proud to let you know that TBE is offering regular events every, single day … some of these have started this week, and others will begin next week – all can be found on our Temple website (www.tbeonline.org):
MONDAYS – ECC Havdallah with Susie Weiner and Sam Jahr (9:15 am) and “Out of the Box” Archives presentation with Laura Williams (2:00pm)
TUESDAYS – Children’s Story Time with Laura Williams (10:00am) and Children’s Singing with Sam Jahr (1:00 pm)
WEDNESDAYS – “Jews of the World” discussion with Rabbi Miller (11:00am)
THURSDAYS – Pre-Shabbat Pump-up with Rabbi Brudney (4:00pm)
FRIDAYS – ECC Shabbat with Susie Weiner, Rabbi Miller, and assorted guests (10:30am)
FRIDAY NIGHT – Shabbat service with our Temple clergy (7:00pm)
SATURDAYS – Torah Study (10:30am) and Mourner’s Kaddish (11:15am) with our Temple clergy
SUNDAYS – Lullabies with Cantor Rachel (7:00pm)
At Temple Beth El, even now … “Our Spirit is Growing!” We are here for you, for as long as this COVID-19 situation lasts and beyond. The Book of Isaiah envisions a moment similar to this when it teaches, “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.” I pray that each of us will remain healthy, that our community will stay strong together, and that we will all be comforted by God’s presence.
Rabbi Mark Miller
Dear TBE family - It has been quite a week, and here at Temple, we have been working very hard to make sure we are still functioning as a community. We have started making phone calls to every Temple member, to check in on you and see how you are handling all this. As always, please write or call Temple if there is anything you need, and we will get back to you as soon as we can. For this weekend, we have a number of opportunities below ... we hope you will join us for our Virtual Shabbat, as celebrating together is especially important now. Click on the links, and please note that there is a special link where you can access our prayer book on-line.
On behalf of our clergy, staff, and Board ... wishing you and your family continued health and spiritual wholeness.
Dear Temple family,
Jewish tradition places an extraordinarily high value on human life – in fact, one can break just about any commandment for the sake of pikuach nefesh (saving a life). However, there are limits even to that … for example, we are told that one may not commit idolatry, even to save a life. I think the subtle message built deeply into the DNA of our 4,000-year-old heritage is that even in the face of tremendous difficulty, we do not want to lose sight of who we are.
I say this, of course, as we are all trying to cope with the realities of COVID-19. I pray that none of you has been affected directly, even as all of us have been impacted in many ways – from disruptions in daily life, to changes in school or work patterns, to financial concerns, to dealing with the anxiety of social isolation.
At Temple Beth El, our clergy, staff, and Board leadership have been working very hard to maintain a balance between safeguarding our community’s public health and protecting our spiritual and emotional well-being. Flattening the curve of the Coronavirus is of utmost importance, but so is finding ways to embrace meaning and comfort and even joy. None of that is easy, but we are doing our best to fulfill our core purpose of being a force for good and an inspiration for living more purposeful, Jewish lives.
The advice we are getting from our civic leaders and medical experts seems to change every day. Even as we try to keep up, here are some current updates for Beth El:
1. Effective immediately, our Temple facility will be closed to any events, meetings, or visits. It is obviously not an easy decision to shut down our beautiful facility, even temporarily … but our primary interest is slowing the spread of the virus by curtailing any interpersonal contact. If you have any questions about how Temple continues to operate at this time, feel free to reach out to our Executive Director, Daniel Mesa, at email@example.com or 248-851-1100.
2. Although our facility is closed, our Temple is still a vibrant community! We are building a wide range of opportunities for our members (and others) to connect, learn, and worship together. Watch your email for more information about our “Virtual TBE” soon.
3. More than anything else, our Temple is defined by its people. We are concerned about how each of you is doing, and sensitive to the wide range of needs that exist in our Temple family. Please know that our clergy and staff are still here for you, ready to help with spiritual concerns, practical matters, or just a listening ear.
If there is anything you need, please do not hesitate to call Temple or send an email to any of us:
Rabbi Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Brudney, email@example.com
Cantor Kalmowitz, firstname.lastname@example.org
For me, personally, this past few days have reminded me how grateful I am to be part of this community. There is lots for us to do, much we cannot predict … but I am confident that we will find new and vital ways to strengthen our community in the long run.
May God’s presence continue to shine upon each of us, and may we all feel the warmth of God’s (and our community’s) loving embrace. We will be in touch regularly from Temple with more information, opportunities, and support.
Rabbi Mark Miller
Dear Temple family,
The Purim holiday is now behind us, but it still feels (as the story suggests) that the world has turned upside down. We are all getting inundated with news and opinions about COVID-19, and you have probably heard about everything from major universities sending students home to the NBA postponing its season. At Temple, we are doing our best to keep our facility and community physically safe, while also ensuring our spiritual/emotional safety.
In addition to consulting with our Medical Advisory Panel, we took part earlier today in a discussion convened by the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit and the Michigan Board of Rabbis. In the interest of broad public health, it was decided that our entire community will take a proactive approach by canceling or postponing all in-person services, programs, and events through April 19.
Specifically, please note the following:
1. We are not “canceling Shabbat,” but we are not going to celebrate together at the Temple. Each week, our intention is for our clergy to offer some sort of Shabbat experience via livestream and/or video option that you can access through our regular website (https://www.tbeonline.org/video-streaming). We will let you know the specifics each week – for this weekend, you can access a regular service on Friday evening at 7:00 pm and on Saturday morning at 10:30 am.
2. All Masa classes will be suspended until further notice. Please watch for specific communication from Debbie Morosohk about various resources and plans.
3. A separate letter is currently being sent to all of our ECC families, to let them know that our ECC will also be closed starting on Monday. Although children have not been hard-hit by the Coronavirus, they can be active carriers, bringing the virus home to parents or grandparents – and so we feel compelled to make sure we are doing everything we can to stop its spread.
4. All programs and meetings at Temple will be suspended – many will be replaced by either live-stream or video conference … we will communicate specifics soon.
5. Life cycle events (weddings, funerals, B’nai Mitzvah, and Naming ceremonies) will certainly continue, although they may take a different form. Some may be private family events that can be live-streamed to friends, and others may be postponed. Be assured that Temple will handle each family and each situation personally and appropriately.
6. Pastoral care and all standard administrative functions will also continue – if you have any needs of the Temple clergy or staff, feel free to contact us via email or the regular Temple phone number (248.851.1100) at any time.
Temple serves many functions in our lives, and one of them is to be a place of support and comfort during moments like this. This is a strong and vibrant community, and we look forward to sharing many exciting occasions together and in-person very soon!
Liz Modell, Temple President
Daniel Mesa, Executive Director
Rabbi Mark Miller
Rabbi Megan Brudney
Cantor Rachel Gottlieb Kalmowitz
Dear TBE family,
Our entire team is getting ready for an epic weekend at Temple, as we celebrate Purim with events on Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday! One of the central messages of this holiday is that moments of great joy are often intertwined with moments of tension or fear. At Beth El, we are keenly aware that our holiday coincides with growing concern – here and around the globe – about COVID-19 (Coronavirus). As we take our cues from both medical experts and Jewish tradition, here are a few important updates:
The Oakland County Health Division has recommended that we implement an enhanced cleaning regimen, and make sure that ample disinfectant is available throughout our building. This increased level of care goes beyond the high standards for building maintenance that we already have in place – including attention to door handles, screens, pews, railings, and all communal areas.
We are all being bombarded with information and opinions about the situation. In an effort to remain calm even as we work toward practical responses to keep our community safe, we have assembled a Medical Advisory Panel (including an infectious disease specialist) to help us understand the evolving data, and make sure that any decisions regarding Temple are sound.
In addition, we are paying close attention to civic institutions in case an outbreak in our area might lead to closures or quarantines. Our heritage clearly instructs us to put saving a life (pikuach nefesh) ahead of just about any other value – be assured that we take that responsibility seriously, and we will be in close contact with you should the need arise.
In the meantime, we are implementing a number of precautions that have been recommended by the Reform Movement and many synagogues around the country:
Temple is a place where we like to warmly greet friends – but until this outbreak has passed, we will do our best to practice “social distancing.” Which means refraining from typical greetings, including hugs and kisses … instead, try anything from an “elbow-bump” to placing a hand over your heart or a wave.
We will not invite kids or members to place their hands on the challah when we say a blessing, and challah will be cut for serving afterwards.
As we walk around with the Torah, please use a prayer book to touch the Torah – but do not kiss or touch the Torah directly.
If you are experiencing ANY cold/flu symptoms, please stay home – you can always livestream our services by going to: https://www.tbeonline.org/video-streaming
Aside from these steps, we recognize that this is a time of high anxiety – please know that our clergy and entire Temple staff are here for you, if there is anything you need. Furthermore, protecting the vulnerable is a Jewish value – please make sure to check in on elderly or ill neighbors who may not be well-equipped to handle this situation. And for more specific and updated information, here are links to both the Oakland County Health Division (https://www.oakgov.com/health/information/covid-19/Pages/default.aspx) and the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html).
At Temple Beth El, everyone’s physical and spiritual safety is our highest priority. Stay safe, and we hope to see you here very soon!
Rabbi Mark Miller, Senior Rabbi
Daniel Mesa, Executive Director
Liz Modell, Temple President