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Our building is closed but we are still here for you! Please visit our Online Services and COVID-19 pages for info.

COVID-19 Update

For the latest messages regarding Shearith Israel and the COVID-19 pandemic, please see below. All services and programs continue to be held via Zoom. Visit the Calendar page for programming details. To participate in member outreach or request support, click the appropriate button below.

Virtual Services @ CSI - Zoom Links & Info

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020 - 16 Tammuz 5780

The approaching three weeks leading to Tisha b’Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, can perhaps give perspective on the challenges we face as Jews in this time of COVID-19.  Jewish life was uprooted with the destruction of the Beit ha’Mikdash and our people were scattered from Eretz Yisrael into the diaspora.  The rabbis, faced with loss of The Temple, the place essential to Jewish practice at the time, re-envisioned Judaism, placing Torah study at the center of religious life.  If the rabbis could remake Judaism in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, surely, we can adapt to the challenges of minimizing the spread of this lethal virus.  

Shearith Israel scrambled in March to continue prayer, education, social, charitable and pastoral missions without a physical building in which we could gather.  Following the halachic (Judaic law) reasoning of the rabbis of the Rabbinical Assembly, that in this extraordinary moment of she’at ha’dehak (dire circumstances), it was deemed appropriate in order to safeguard life (pikuah nefesh), to move prayer services online.  We’ve held morning and evening services online every day since, and will continue to do so until we are able to gather safely again.  Machaneh Shai and Minyan Shelanu programming for children and adult programs have moved online as well.  Ahavat Chinam charitable initiatives, the Chesed Committee and Chevra Kadisha continue their good and sacred work, modified to reflect the reality of social distancing.  Rabbi Kaiman continues to officiate at life events and to counsel members, and Rabbinic Intern Sammy Rosenbaum has added new responsibilities as well as filling in during Rabbi Kaiman’s family vacation this month.  The staff, under the leadership of Executive Director, Jodi Salomon, has remained dedicated and productive.  None of this is the same: not everyone is comfortable online; not everything can be done as well online; Internet access is an issue.  Yet, there have been some silver linings – surprise nuggets that will lead to more permanent innovations.  

Almost immediately after closing our campus, we began discussions of when and how to reopen.  A Medical Task Force composed of three infectious disease physicians and scientists was appointed to advise leadership about the conditions necessary for reopening and procedures that will support the best health outcomes when we do reopen.  Based on their expert advice, in May the Board of Trustees adopted a Plan for Reopening Shearith Israel (which was amended in June).  The plan, which has already been widely shared, includes five phases, moving from extremely limited access to our campus, to a gradual re-opening as conditions permit.  Each phase of the plan places a premium on safe health practices, as well as recognition that not everyone will be able to attend in person for some time.  The plan can be reviewed at: CSI Reopening Plan 2020.

A High Holiday Task Force, co-led by Robbie Medwed and Rabbinic Intern Sammy Rosenbaum has recommended primarily online prayer services and study, supplemented by a series of activities to take place in homes and neighborhood outdoor settings.  Some of the ideas in the report are quite innovative, including Shofar blasts in parks, Tashlich Docent Tours, Yizkor Memory Circles, and “Chag-In-A-Box” kits to support your home experience.  High Holidays 5781 will be different than past years; we are working so that at least some of the differences will be the basis of fond memories.

One unavoidable consequence of the COVID crisis has been our inability to move forward with many of the initiatives laid out in our Strategic Plan, adopted in February.  The pillars of the Plan in organizational health, gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness), avodah (prayer), Torah (education) and facilities, set out a rich agenda for the years ahead.  The Rabbi and Board are laying the groundwork now so that when the constraints of COVID are behind us, we can smoothly move forward with the plan’s objectives. 
    
The challenges of COVID are not as earth-shattering as destruction of the Temple, but they have nonetheless been substantial.  With children out of school and camp, college students unsure of their plans for the coming semester, salary reductions and job losses, our inability to travel or to visit family members in the hospital or in assisted living facilities, cabin fever and general unease about what lies ahead, we know that some of you may need a helping hand.  Our fervent prayer is that the shul and its members have been of assistance and comfort to you during these difficult months, but please, if there is anything else that our kehillah can do for you, please let us know.

We look forward to the time when we can gather again safely and raise our voices together in worship.   

B’shalom,

Faith Levy, President
Baruch Stiftel, Chair, Religious Life Committee
Rabbi Ari Kaiman

 

 

Monday, May 4, 2020 - 10 Iyar 5780

 
Shalom,
 

We are learning more all the time about how the novel coronavirus is spreading and the wide-ranging severity of the COVID-19 disease. The longer this goes, the more we miss one another's presence.

The leadership and staff of Shearith Israel are closely consulting with a very talented team of medical professionals who have access to the very latest knowledge and are part of the team shaping national guidance. As we work to develop CSI’s plan moving forward, we want to hear from you regarding your thoughts and concerns.

We are also coordinating with the city of Atlanta. Rabbi Kaiman is one of two representatives of the faith community sitting on the Mayor’s advisory committee for reopening Atlanta.

Together, we are creating a framework to guide our decision making as we move through the challenges ahead. The consensus is that we are not returning to the old "normal" anytime soon. We are moving forward to a new normal, guided by our value of protecting life and the advice of CSI's community of epidemiological and infectious disease experts. 

In the coming days and weeks, you can expect to hear more from us, and we want to hear from you too. Please email rabbikaiman@shearithisael.com to share your thoughts. 

With the blessings of health, and togetherness,

Ari Kaiman                     Jodi Salomon                       Faith Levy
Rabbi                             Executive Director                President 
 

 

Monday, March 16, 2020 - 20 Adar 5780

 

OUR VALUES:

Nothing is more important to us than human life. The threat of COVID-19 has already upended all our lives, and many members of the Shearith Israel community are either highly vulnerable, or are directly connected to those who are highly vulnerable to this virus.   

This illness is a proof of how our bodies and souls are more intertwined than we often realize.  There is only one way we can adequately protect all those connected to our community. 

Rabbi Kaiman and Jodi Salomon, Executive Director, in consultation with our leadership at Shearith Israel, the Rabbinical Assembly, USCJ, and experts at the CDC working on COVID-19, have some updated guidelines for the next phase of combatting this illness. 

As of today, the CDC is recommending that there be no gatherings over 50 people.

PROGRAMS & SERVICES:

Until further notice, Congregation Shearith Israel is suspending all in-person services and programs.

On Shabbat mornings with B'nai Mitzvah, close family of the B'nai Mitzvah, prayer leaders, and Torah readers will constitute a small minyan.  Others are asked not to attend these services in person. We are quickly working to enable livestreaming capabilties for these services.  

Many Conservative congregations are considering this a sha'at d'chak - a time that is a particular stress. One of Rabbi Kaiman's teachers in Jewish law, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, holds by this opinion. This legal category permits certain practices that would be normally be forbidden. The relevant example is forming and participating in virtual minyanim. 

Until we finalize our technology and plans in this matter, this is a link to many congregations that provide streaming of their services. I hope that Shearith is added to this list soon.

We are working to develop new ways to connect you to meaningful living through Judaism from afar. The challenges presented by this illness are an opportunity for us to innovate our prayer and study practice.  

MACHANEH SHAI & CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING:

Machaneh Shai, MASA, Kadima, USY, and other programming for children is included in our suspension of programming.  Nancy Gorod is working diligently with our teachers and staff to provide online learning.

IN-PERSON MEETINGS WITH CSI STAFF AND "DROP-INS":

All in-person meetings with staff should be conducted virtually, either by phone or video-conferencing software. The building is closed to drop-in appointments.  

SPIRITUAL CONNECTION IS POSSIBLE DURING ISOLATION:

We can still support one another

We are heartened by the many individuals and families who have reached out to offer support to one another. Rabbi Kaiman is working on a plan to help us connect to one another during this challenging time. Please reach out and call the synagogue or Rabbi on his mobile phone if you'd like to speak or have something to offer. We're all bound up in this together, and we'll all be stronger and better on the other side.

With Abundant Love,

Rabbi Ari Kaiman, Jodi Salomon, Faith Levy, and the leadership of CSI

 

Sat, August 8 2020 18 Av 5780