Update: CBI in this time of pandemic

See also: Like a fiddler on the roof, March 13, 2020.

Dear CBI community,

I am writing with an update on what we are doing at CBI about the covid-19 pandemic.

Assuming that the U.S. is following the trajectory set in Italy, it seems likely that we are going to see many more cases of the coronavirus in the coming days and weeks. Containment of the virus appears to no longer be an option. Now epidemiologists say that our best bet is to aim to mitigate its spread, so that we can flatten the curve of transmission and hopefully ensure that we don’t overwhelm our local hospital with more sick people than there are ventilators.

Chris Kelly and I attended the Rabbis and Presidents meeting yesterday with others across the county and with folks from Jewish Federation of the Berkshires. Based on our conversations with other rabbis and presidents across the county, and the recommendations of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to cancel or postpone large gatherings, we’ve reached the following decisions, in which the whole Board of Directors concurs:

  1. Our Hebrew school is closed until after the public schools’ April vacation. We hope to resume classes on April 20th. 
  2. We are going to move to holding services remotely after tomorrow morning’s Shabbat service. Tomorrow’s service will take place as usual in our sanctuary; we ask everyone to wash hands and to practice social distancing (sit six feet apart and do not touch). After that, instead of gathering in our sanctuary in person, we will be gathering for prayer and fellowship via video for a while. (More on that below.)
  3. With deepest regret, we are cancelling our second night community seder this year. It will not be possible to have a seder and practice social distancing. 

These are not decisions we have reached lightly, but we believe them to be the best way we can protect the most vulnerable among us — the elderly and the immunocompromised — and the best way we can contribute to efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

We know that these extraordinary steps may heighten anxiety. Please know that my virtual office door is open to you: I am here to speak via phone or to meet via zoom or Facetime if you want to talk about the pandemic or anything else that’s on your mind and heart.

Please check in with each other, too. Reach out to friends across the community, see how people are, offer the social connectivity of a phone call or a video chat date. If you are still able to go out to get groceries, see if someone elderly or immunocompromised needs you to pick things up for them. We need each other now more than ever.

The virus is a potent reminder that we are all connected — across the globe, across every difference and division. May our connections with each other sustain us, even during this time when prudence and altruism and care for the vulnerable ask us to be physically apart.

Stay tuned for further updates. Meanwhile, I’m sending all of us blessings for a Shabbat of much-needed shalom —

Rabbi Rachel

About Services In The Next Few Weeks

This week (March 14) services will be held as normal in the Ada and Paul Paresky Sanctuary. Please wash hands upon arrival and practice social distancing (sit six feet apart, do not touch each other, do not kiss prayerbooks or the Torah.)

Next week (March 21) is the bar mitzvah of Cameron Miller. Immediate family will gather in the sanctuary to hear him read from Torah; everyone else in the community will be invited to participate via Facebook Live, and we will stream Shabbat morning services on our Facebook page as we have done with High Holiday services in the past. 

The following week (March 28) we will move to holding services via zoom videoconferencing. One of the upsides of zoom is that we can all see each other (unlike Facebook Live, where participants can’t see each other — FB Live is more of a broadcast medium.) 

You can download zoom for your computer, your smartphone, and/or your tablet. Here is their Frequently Asked Questions page. We will send out information about how to connect to our zoom room as that date approaches. 

Other Resources

Prayer For Washing Hands During A Pandemic, by Trisha Arlin