November 18, 2020
Dear Temple Shalom Families and Friends,
We write with an update on the operating status of Temple Shalom. What started as a two-week closure of our building became a closure through April and then a closure through the end of the current calendar year (with the exception of a strictly regulated reopening of the Early Learning Center in August and carefully limited administrative staffing). We are pained in writing this letter because we yearn to be within six feet of each other, to be able to share a smile without a mask, and to pray and sing together in person. As the months continue on, each of us shares in the powerful pull to come back together in person. We struggle each day that we are unable to do so.
After discussion with the Board of Trustees and Senior Staff, we plan to remain in the current operating status into 2021. With the dramatically increasing community spread of COVID-19 and the onset of flu season and cold weather, we believe that our current operating status will remain in effect at least through the first quarter of 2021.
In order to help guide us through what we anticipate to be rapidly evolving health and medical facts, we have created an advisory Task Force on Continuing Operations to help Temple leadership on future decision making. The Task Force will assist us in understanding the evolving science in the coming months and will be asked to make recommendations on, among other things, criteria to consider as we evaluate changes to our operating status. The Task Force will also make recommendations with respect to what steps the Temple should take to help minimize risks to our synagogue community as well as the broader community, consistent with our Jewish values, when we approach a decision to return to in-person activities either outside or inside the building. The Task Force is being led by Executive Vice President Jeff Steger and includes medical professionals and others with relevant experience and knowledge about our operations and facilities. With the help of that Task Force, we will be ready to modify our operating status when the medical evidence allows us to do so consistent with our Jewish values. As we move through the first quarter of 2021, we will provide further updates to the Temple community on our operations.
We also want to take this opportunity to remind everyone some of the ways that Temple Shalom remains here for each of us and how we each can continue to engage with Temple Shalom and each other:
- Robust Virtual Programming. We continue to organize virtual gatherings and programs and we have found that congregant-led gatherings are very popular and engaging. If you want to organize a cooking class, a learning opportunity, game night, a virtual wine tasting, or any other small (or large) virtual group gathering, please let us know. Please use this Google form to ask for access to the Temple Zoom accounts for a smaller gathering or to propose a wider program, class, or social gathering. For technology questions, contact Alyssa Berez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Services and Siddurim (Prayer Books). If services would be more meaningful to you with a prayer book, please contact our Clergy Administrator at Rabast@templeshalom.net to borrow one or more for use at home while services remain virtual.
- Welcoming New Members.We are pleased that we have 45 adult members who have joined Temple Shalom during or shortly before our physical closure—and many more kids as well. We are looking to organize creative ways to help integrate our newest members into our community and to help our new members self-organize gatherings among themselves. If you would like to help with that effort, please email Mike Rubin at email@example.com. As always, during these difficult times when so many long for connections and community, we hope that you continue to encourage friends and family to try us our through the Gift of Membership program.
- Religious and Hebrew School. Our Educational Programs continue to offer robust virtual programming. In addition to our Religious School Program, we will continue to offer opportunities for families to connect and learn together both virtually and in their own homes as well as supplemental programs for our students to connect. If you are interested in helping to bring forward creative family programs, please email Rabbi Ira at IRosenberg@templeshalom.net.
- Pastoral Care. Our clergy continue to be available by phone and video conference to provide pastoral care. Let our clergy know how you are doing and how we can help.
- Funerals and Shiva. We continue to be here to support one another through losses while protecting the most vulnerable. Our shiva minyan leaders are able to lead virtual shiva The procedures for graveside funerals as set by our clergy and the cemeteries continue to evolve. Temple Shalom’s policies on clergy attendance continue to evolve as health and safety issues evolve. Please contact our clergy at the time of a death as their practices may differ than those of the funeral homes and cemeteries.
- Congregant-to-Congregant Outreach. Our regular congregant-to-congregant calls continue to be made—with the frequency tailored to needs and requests of individual congregants. We all need to be checked in on. If you would like to provide support by calling other congregants, please contact Sherry Doggett at firstname.lastname@example.org who can always use more volunteers. If you have not been receiving calls and would like to be, please let Sherry know.
- ShalomCares. Early in the Pandemic a group of Temple psychologists, therapists, and social workers came together to offer their expertise through information and programming to support the emotional health of our community. Please look for their email each Friday as well as periodic mental health programs. If there is something that you think would benefit the community, please contact ShalomCares@templeshalom.net.
- Mitzvah Corps. This longstanding Temple institution supports Temple members and continues to offer help during the Pandemic. To determine if Mitzvah Corps is able to assist you with your needs, please reach out to us by emailing email@example.com or calling the Temple office at 301-587-CARE (2273).
- Financial Assistance.As COVID-19 continues to impact our economy, if you now or in the future need assistance paying a utility bill, buying groceries, filling a prescription, or meeting other basic needs, please contact one of the clergy. They have Mitzvah Funds to assist those in need. We remain incredibly grateful to Rabbi Emeritus Bruce E. Kahn, our Sisterhood and Brotherhood, as well as many members who have made contributions. Their generosity helps our clergy meet the needs of our community in these unprecedented times. You may also send a donation to one of our clergy’s Mitzvah Funds by mailing a check made out to Temple Shalom with designation to one of the Mitzvah Funds or by making an online donation HERE. In addition, if you are in need, The Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington continues to provide emergency, interest-free loans of up to $2,500 to those impacted financially by COVID-19.
- Membership Financial Obligations. We thank everyone who has been able to continue to be generous to Temple Shalom. That generosity makes it possible for us to remain committed to welcoming all regardless of financial circumstances. If you need relief from your Temple financial commitments, please do not let that be an added worry for you. Our Financial Secretary Bev Potter stands ready to help. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org so that she can support you and your family by alleviating financial burdens.
- Temple Clergy, Senior Staff, and our Administrative Team. Our clergy, senior staff, and administrative team continue to work to meet the needs of the congregation. We carefully limit who and how many may work in the building and our team continues to work primarily from home. Please be assured that we continue to meet our financial obligations to our employees. Our ability to do so reflects this community’s generosity and commitment to run Temple Shalom consistent with our Jewish values.
We know this is an incredibly difficult time in so many ways, especially as we enter the winter months. We encourage you to reach out to Temple members, clergy, staff, and lay leadership to share how you are feeling, or simply to check in. While we continue to practice physical distancing to maximize the health of our entire community, we encourage everyone to find ways to sustain the powerful connections to each other and to our community that define Temple Shalom. We look forward to learning, praying, and virtually gathering with you throughout the months to come.
Please reach out to any of us if you have any questions.
L’Shalom (In Peace),
Rabbi Rachel Ackerman, Senior Rabbi
Susan Goutos Zemsky, Executive Director
Rabbi Ira Rosenberg, Rabbi Educator
Lisa Heiser-Polin, ELC Director
Michael Rubin, President
Jeff Steger, Executive Vice President