Suspension of in-shul gatherings
The COVID-19 crisis is evolving rapidly, and as a community, we must take critical and decisive action:
a) to prevent individual infection and community spread;
b) to protect our vulnerable populations;
c) to do what we can to lessen the impact on an already overwhelmed health-care system.
To that end, we are suspending all in-person shul-gatherings, beginning today through Sunday, March 22nd. That means:
1. There will be no Shabbat services or daily minyans.
2. There will be no Gesher religious school classes or adult education classes.
3. There will be no other gatherings or meetings.
4. The synagogue office will be closed. (Susan will be available only by phone or email during regular business hours.)
5. I (Rabbi Muroff) will not be meeting with people in person or visiting hospitals or nursing homes. (I, too, will be available by phone or email.)
This ten-day suspension of all activities will give our shul leadership the time to develop and consider our long-term plans, including possibly extending the suspension of our in-person activities, and we will keep you updated as we make those decisions.
We will continue to communicate with the congregation through phone messaging, emails, and also through video platforms. We plan to provide learning and prayer experiences on these platforms as well.
We pray for all those who are ill and for all those caring for them. We pray that we will be able to resume our normal lives soon.
In making these decisions, we have consulted with our member, Dr. Michael Katzman, an infectious diseases physician at Hershey Medical Center, and with other medical authorities. We understand that right now, precisely before there are recorded cases of COVID-19 in our area, it is crucial to minimize social contact so that we can reduce the rate of infection in our community. It is truly a matter of pikuach nefesh, life and death. We are in the exponential upsurge stage of the spread of this disease. Since everyone, including children, can be carriers, and since it is likely that the virus can spread even from people who are not experiencing any symptoms and since it is human nature to deny symptoms, we must limit all non-essential contact with other people to reduce the spread of COVID-19 which is particularly threatening to older people and to those who have respiratory challenges.
We know that these actions are significant, yet it is difficult not to feel behind the curve. As a rabbi in another community put it, "an idea that seems so crazy that only the most panicked and paranoid would do it, two days later seems so obvious that only those in denial or utterly careless wouldn't do it."
So let us take these steps to distance ourselves AND let us use our phones and other technologies to reach out to each other. Let us find creative ways to support each other and ourselves. We plan to be in touch with you and invite you to let us know how we can support you during this challenging time.
We understand how difficult this will be, on so many levels, and that this will impact our lives in ways that we cannot yet fathom. We are a resilient and compassionate congregation. Just as we have done in confronting other challenges, our Chisuk Emuna family will get through this together.
Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek - Be strong, be strong and let us strengthen one another,
Nancy Simmons, President
Ron Muroff, Rabbi