Dear Shaarie Torah Kehillah,
Having reviewed advice from public health experts and in consultation with our own lay leadership as well as other leaders in the Portland Jewish community, we have decided to cease all synagogue-related gatherings for at least the next two weeks. This means we will NOT hold
· Friday night and Shabbat morning services
· Weekday minyan
· Religious school and Wednesday night school programming
· Adult Ed classes
· Any other programming, whether scheduled to take place at CST, member homes, or at any other location.
Administrative staff will be reporting to work to maintain business operations, but the shul office will be closed to outside foot traffic. Facilities staff will use this time for additional deep cleaning to the building and to start Pesach preparations in the kitchen.
While we are remaining optimistic that we can ease these restrictions by Pesach, we will continue to closely monitor all reports and follow recommendations by the CDC, OHA and other medical agencies. Updates will be sent out as needed.
We are taking these extraordinary measures not only because many in our own synagogue community are vulnerable to the virus, but also because all of us are being asked to take steps to reduce strain on our healthcare system over the coming weeks.
This is not any easy decision for a synagogue community. It is ironic that we take this step the week that we read the Torah portion Vayakhel which begins with Moses bringing together (vayakhel) the whole community to instruct them about the creation of a sanctuary. The Mei HaShiloach (19th century) writes on the parshah: “Moshe gathered and united them so that everyone would merit this treasure [of God’s holiness]. The merit of the individual is not as great as the merit of the community. But every individual’s merit could be for the good of the whole group. In this way they came together and were like one person.“
He is telling us that the essence of the Israelites gathering together was spiritual rather than physical. As we are challenged to rethink – temporarily – what it means to come together as a community this teaching can serve us well. How can you help us be “like one person?” Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky wrote recently in the Forward: “Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise. “
This week and next Rabbi Rose will be making additional efforts to reach out to vulnerable members of our shul community by phone to check in and will continue to make pastoral visits. Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns. Many thanks to those who have already been in touch to offer support and a helping hand to make sure our community stays connected and strong throughout these very unexpected times.
This time of extraordinary pain calls upon us to summon extraordinary goodness. We will get through this spiritually stronger if we do so together. Social distancing must be accompanied by acts that bring us closer. If we do this, the great foundation of Jewish flourishing – Jewish unity – will be truly manifest.
Over the next week we will review possibilities for ‘virtual’ online services and learning. In the meantime, if you need to speak to clergy or staff at the shul you can call or email as usual.
May God bring insight to our healers, strength to God’s people, and refua shleimah to us and to all those currently suffering from illness.
Jemi Kostiner Mansfield, Executive Director
Daniel Petcher, President of the Board of Directors