Staying Connected During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Over the last few weeks, the coronavirus epidemic has hit closer to home. Our friends and Jewish neighbors in Westchester County have been particularly affected and cases of the virus have now been identified here in Bergen County. We pray for a speedy and complete healing for those who are ill and wish comfort for the families of those who have died from COVID-19.

It was extremely difficult for me to come to terms with the decision to suspend our prayer services and celebrations. As Jews, and in our community in particular, one of the things we do best is come together to celebrate, enjoy being together, and support one another in difficult times. Whether it is coming together for a minyan to allow someone to say kaddish, visiting those who are ill, or celebrating a simcha, we show up for each other. Only extraordinary circumstances would override our celebrations and responsibilities to one another.

We find ourselves in extraordinary circumstances. Our tradition teaches us that the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh, preserving life, takes precedence over almost every other commandment in the Torah. While it may be painful and disappointing not to be able to celebrate and support one another in the way that we are accustomed, by helping to contain the spread of illness we act in accordance with our Jewish values.

As the news about the coronavirus outbreak unfolds and in conversations I have had with colleagues, I am reminded of the incredible resilience of Jewish communities throughout history. Even in extremely difficult times, Jews have found ways to carry on our traditions and to support one another. In these moments of rupture, we adapt. I have been amazed at the creativity already shown by other synagogues and organizations in finding ways to connect virtually, even when we cannot gather in the usual ways. KH will be exploring ways that technology can help us stay connected. I have included links to some resources that you may find helpful, including a list of synagogues that offer live streaming services.

I also encourage you to check in with your friends and neighbors, particularly those who are isolated or vulnerable. KH will be in touch about other ways that we can continue to support each other and others in the larger community.

There is still much uncertainty about the impact of the coronavirus in the days and weeks ahead. Please know that the lay leadership and I are monitoring the situation closely and are in touch with local government agencies and Jewish organizations regarding the latest recommendations. We will continue to be in touch with you regarding any changes to our schedule of services and activities.

If you have any questions or concerns, or simply want to talk, I am here for you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me by phone or email for any reason. I look forward to hearing from you, and hope that we will be able to gather as a community again soon.

(Originally sent via email on March 12, 2020)