From the first week we found ourselves sheltering in place, we have been sharing the message that while our building is closed, our Synagogue is very much open and thriving. We have found new and innovative ways to connect and “be together” virtually for worship, education, pastoral and communal gatherings. And while we certainly miss being together in-person, we have created new holy spaces where we have been able to pray, celebrate, and mourn with one another. While the meeting place may be “virtual,” the care, passion, compassion, prayer, and friendship are all as real as ever.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, your Temple leadership’s decisions have incorporated not only sound, up-to-the-minute medical information, but also rests on our core Jewish values.
Pikuach nefesh – saving a life. It is the cornerstone of who we are as Jews, so at the forefront of every decision is the safety of both our staff and our congregants;
Kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh – we are all responsible for the safety and well-being of one another. We cannot make any decisions in a vacuum;
Equity – we strive for fair access to what we have to offer for our entire Temple Adas Shalom community.
With guidance from the CDC, our Reform Movement, the State of Maryland, and health care professionals within our congregational family, it has become increasingly apparent that the risks involved in gathering, praying communally, singing and chanting are significant and not yet contained, even through careful social distancing and wearing of masks. And, with respect to High Holy Day services, our most special and sacred portions of that experience – singing together, listening to our beloved Sig Gast and talented choir lead us in prayer, hearing the sounds of the Shofar, participating in the Hakafah with past and present Temple leaders holding our Torah scrolls, sharing the bima with one another, and greeting and wishing everyone Shanah Tovah – cannot be enjoyed safely in our sanctuary at this time.
We have determined that in order to make our High Holy Day services meaningful, spiritual and safe for everyone, we must conduct these services virtually. This is the best decision we can make to honor both our tradition and our entire Temple community. We remain committed to continuing to offer vibrant, sacred and inclusive pathways for remote participation, and to do so in ways that remain true to who we are as a Congregation.
We do not make this decision lightly, and we recognize that this decision for some is a painful one. So much has been taken from us in these last few months. It is difficult to let go of the hopes and expectations we have for many aspects of our lives right now, including our High Holy Day season. But if we lean into chesed, loving kindness, as we seek out new and creative ways to show love to our neighbors and ourselves, and we remember that Temple Adas Shalom is not a building but rather a family, we can collectively make this High Holy Day experience meaningful, engaging and spiritual for all of us. We can allow our clergy and Religious Practices Committee (RPC) to focus their time and our resources on reimagining a sacred and powerful worship and study experience that is right for this time and place.
As with all decisions our leadership team is making during these times, we recognize that our plans must include room for flexibility. We will continue to monitor the latest scientific information from the sources noted above, and work toward in-person gatherings based on what we learn. In the meantime, we have been begun working to create innovative ways to experience this unique High Holy Day season, and are in regular contact with URJ staff, other Rabbis, and Temple leaders from across the country. As almost every Reform congregation is now planning on virtual services, there are many ideas being shared across URJ communication networks.
Our community is so much greater than the four walls of our building. Temple Adas Shalom is a group of resilient, committed, loving and caring individuals and families. Our strength lies in our hearts, and no pandemic can take that away. Let’s do what we do best; let’s rise up together in community and move forward from strength to strength. This is who we are, so let’s get started.
Mike Gordon, President
Rabbi John Franken
Melissa Immel, Co-Chair Religious Practices Committee
Mark Wolkow, Co-Chair Religious Practices Committee