These days, we say “Shabbat Shalom” over Zoom on Friday afternoons as we finish our work week, and we add the words to our emails as we prepare for another weekend at home. Instead of arriving at the temple doors for a 6:30 p.m. Shabbat service, we’ve settled into a new kind of normal—closing our email tabs and opening our synagogue’s live-stream to tune in to Friday evening Zoom Shabbat. In doing so, the exact nature and location of our weekly “Shabbat Shalom” greeting has changed, but those moments when we express our optimism and hope for Shabbat renewal remain the same.
What is extraordinary and heartening about this continued observance of Shabbat is that all over the Boston area, Jews are doing the exact same thing. Unprecedented numbers of Jewish community members continue to participate in the activities of local synagogues. Despite a quarantine and a global pandemic, we continue to hold onto the vision and practice of Shabbat. We are physically at home but socially and spiritually we continue to gather each week as a community. We are doing what the Jewish community does best: adapting the traditions and practices of our ancient faith so they remain relevant and central as we meet the moment in which we find ourselves.
Throughout the pandemic, our synagogues—Temple Shalom, Temple Beth Avodah and Temple Beth Shalom—are not closed. We remain fully and completely open. We have launched innovative digital programming, worship and life-cycle moments. And we continue to craft new ways for our members to engage and stay connected.
This year, as the High Holy Days approach and we prepare to celebrate the start of 5781, we know it’s unlikely we will be able to physically gather. This is sad and disappointing. We rely on these important Jewish holidays to reset, renew and prepare for the year ahead.
And so, as we once again face another unprecedented experience, we wonder: When we open our digital doors for our holiest of days, will you be there? This fall, will you help us shape the next chapter in the story of the Jewish people? And, in the year ahead, will you ensure our synagogue community continues to thrive?
The sad fact is that nationwide many synagogues are struggling with the effects of COVID-19 and what that has meant for our institutions, and with dwindling membership numbers. Synagogue life in America is at a crossroads and many of our congregations must make challenging decisions based on this new financial reality.
In Boston, we are blessed to be a thriving and active Jewish community with talented and invested leadership and diverse opportunities. September often brings new synagogue members, excited to start the new year worshipping and learning with us. And sometimes, it also brings synagogue resignations—as people move, find a synagogue that is a better fit for them or simply don’t feel connected.
As local synagogue leaders, we feel it’s vital that Jewish families find a spiritual home that is a good fit for them. Our hope for you this fall, regardless of COVID-19, is that you find that fit. Take the time to explore, and connect, and engage (for the time being online), and then become members who invest in your synagogue. Invest your time, your talents and your resources to ensure that during this moment of challenge and change your congregation continues to thrive.
Now is a moment for total transparency: It will take your continued financial support to ensure our Jewish institutions, especially our synagogues, survive. This year, the High Holy Days may be digital, but our communities are not. Our synagogues are tangible, living reminders that we are not alone and that Judaism is a shared experience and identity. The last few months, our synagogue communities have reinvented themselves and been a source of unprecedented creativity and innovation. They are a vital example of the resiliency and strength of our people.
Your continued membership and financial commitment ensure that when this crisis is over there will still be thriving, financially secure synagogues that will continue to enrich our lives now and for many years to come. Your membership is needed more than ever, both to sustain our synagogues through the short term of this pandemic and because it will take each of us to contribute to the healing of the world that will be required of us when it ends. We have work to do, a community to heal, and you are part of it.
Blacker’s Bakery has now reopened and the words “Shabbat Shalom” can again be heard throughout our towns and cities. We also know that in the span of a few months, our lives and our Jewish practice have been inextricably changed. Our “Shabbat Shalom” greeting reminds us that with your support and partnership there will continue to be a meaningful Jewish future here in Boston. We wish you an early Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova (Happy New Year). We look forward to being in community with you this High Holy Day season and all the days in between.
Caroline Dorn is the membership and engagement director at
Temple Shalom of Newton. Lori Rosen is the director of member relations and engagement at Temple Beth Avodah. Rahel Gruenberg is the community engagement manager at Temple Beth Shalom.
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