Dear Congregants,

When the world changed a year ago with the determination that COVID-19 was a pandemic, we didn’t know that a year later we would be still outside the building and socially distant for almost everything. We have worked hard to maintain our sacred community via Zoom for worship, for adult Jewish learning, for religious school, and for community. There have been some benefits for our congregants who had not been able to attend otherwise for a variety of reasons. There have also been some challenges for congregants for whom a virtual approach does not work for a variety of reasons. A year has passed with the celebrations, changes, milestones, and losses for which we join each other in community and we have been present in new ways.

With the decision of the State of Louisiana to move to Phase 3, working with the Reopening Task Force, we are moving towards having services in our sanctuary on Friday nights, beginning on March 19. We are trying to move with deliberate speed while being cautious in our reopening. Reopening does not mean everything looks again like it did in January, 2020, but it does mean that there will be the option for some to return to services in person. We will continue to stream all services on Zoom because we know not everybody will be able to return to the sanctuary.

The guidelines that the Reopening Task Force determined based on our reopening plan are as follows
All attendees will RSVP using the link provided in the email
Those over 65 and/or with underlying health issues will be encouraged to continue participating via online methods, even if fully vaccinated
Worship will be held in the sanctuary, allowing for 6-ft social distancing of individuals and family groups
Attendees will be required to wear face coverings
Attendees will have their temperature taken before entry; anyone with a temperature exceeding 100.4 degrees will not be permitted inside the building
Attendees must verbally confirm to entry attendant that they meet other “non-symptomatic” CDC criteria
Worshippers will be required to sign-in upon entering the building
Worshippers will be asked to use hand sanitizer
Attendees will have the option of using their own smartphone or tablet for a virtual prayer book or use a physical prayer book
No gatherings will take place after the service
Rabbi Appel will be the only person on the bima. She will be masked and wear a microphone
Any musician present on Shabbat will participate from the choir loft
Congregants will provide own kippot/tallitot as desired
We are only opening Friday night services for now as we want to move into this change gradually. We know that people have missed being present with each other in our Sanctuary. We also know that we need to be careful for each other because preserving our sacred community means taking measures for safety.

Governor John Bel Edwards has declared Sunday, March 14 to be a day of prayer for our state, as we mark the anniversary of the first case to be confirmed in Louisiana and not long after the first death from COVID-19 to be confirmed in Louisiana. We include the following prayer from Rabbi Evan Schultz

baruch atah Adonai, blessed are You,
Source of strength;
Who imbues us with continued fortitude
To weather the storm,
and to fill open spaces with new sources of light.

If you have questions, please call Andy Blumberg.

Shabbat Shalom,

Andy Blumberg

Rabbi Batsheva Appel
Interim Rabbi

This first appeared in the October 2020 edition of our monthly newsletter. View the archives »

The sukkah, the hut or booth in which we are commanded to live for, the Feast of Tabernacles, is really designed to be transitory. The roof is supposed to be less rather than more, so that one can see the stars.There is no real expectation that it will protect one from the rain, so we are told in the Mishnah to come in out of the soup is going to be spoiled.The walls of the walls of the sukkah should be enough to withstand some wind, but it is in no way a secure shelter.

In a year that has seen so many changes in our lives, I think that the mitzvah, the commandment, of living in the sukkah for a week is a powerful reminder of how quickly things can change. We may plan, but the outcome is never assured. There can be an abundant harvest one year followed by a meager harvest the next.We are reminded to be thankful for what we have in that moment, because there is no telling what the next moment will bring.

I am thankful for many things as we begin Sukkot. Thank you to everyone who helped make our High Holy Days beautiful this year. We celebrated the start of 5781 as a sacred community in the face of great change with a few challenges. The beautiful services would not have happened without you. Thank you to Nathan Levy and the Men’s Club for putting up our sukkah, and to everyone who helped to decorate it this week.

Chag Sameach! Happy Sukkot!