Coping with Covid

It’s hard to believe that the Corona Virus Pandemic has become a daily reality for close to five months. Who ever could have imagined how profoundly it would affect our lives? Routine activities like dining out, getting a haircut, going to a school, attending a favorite public event have come and gone. Our lives – in many cases our very livelihood – have been turned upside down. As I write, Covid cases in the United States are spiking out of proportion with no apparent signs of abatement. Our lack of firm knowledge about the virus, and consequently on how to combat this scourge continues to challenge us. Most of us feel that any hope of significant improvement by 2021 is optimistic.

The word “synagogue” comes from the Greek and is a translation of the Hebrew “Beit Knesset.” (בית כנסת), “a place where people gather.” To date, we’ve been informed that the chances of becoming infected is increased exponentially in such an environment. Thank the Lord, we currently have the ability to create virtual gathering places, essentially by means of Zoom technology. I readily admit that before this all began, I never imagined how effective such technology might be in maintaining a community – especially for those who are forced to remain isolated in their homes.

At the same time, I recognize that there are serious challenges regarding this solution for many of our members. There are those of us who are challenged by this whole new world of communication. We are disturbed by various elements of it, such as the invasion of our privacy and the various abuses that are brought to our attention. We aren’t comfortable with the challenges presented by computer language, (“Googling, email, links, downloading, menus, wifi, world-wide web”) or keyboard techniques, or even just getting onto the internet. For the novice, such concepts and processes feel overwhelming and create an inordinate amount of stress.

SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THESE INTERRELATED CHALLENGES???

While it’s true that everything we do involves a certain amount of risk, it’s vital to use our intelligence to ascertain the degree of risk. Facing the threat of being infected by the virus is no different. Here’s what the CDC has to say about the matter. Please read this carefully.

Guiding Principles

  • A gathering refers to a planned or spontaneous event, indoors or outdoors, with a small number of people participating or a large number of people in attendance such as a community event or gathering, concert, festival, conference, parade, wedding, or sporting event.
  • The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading.
  • The higher the level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading during a gathering.
  • The size of an event or gathering should be determined based on state, local, territorial or tribal safety laws and regulations.

The risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings increases as follows:

  • Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.
  • More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
  • Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
  • Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.

In my position as Rabbi, the thought of any individual contracting COVID-19 by attending any event sponsored by Beth Ami is a non-starter. Please know, that regardless of any legal consequences, I would be unable to live with myself if this happened under my watch.

We’ve already started working on a two-pronged strategy. The first part involves assisting any member who at this point is unable to use Zoom comfortably.

Essentially this involves:

(Most important) The willingness to attempt to learn something unfamiliar.

Providing the equipment such as a computer or a tablet.

Making it possible to connect to the internet.

We want everyone to be able to connect with their friends in a way that doesn’t compromise their safety.

We are also in the process of planning a “New Year package” in anticipation of the Holidays, which will include :

Machzor (High Holiday Prayer Book),

Yizkor book

Jewish Calendar

Service for Tashlich

Apple(s)

Honey stick

Challah

Memorial candle

Tea candles

Information about the holiday season

Face Masks

We are arranging for distribution the week preceding Rosh HaShanah. We are looking for volunteers and sponsors to assist in this project. If you think you would like to help and are in a position to do so, please contact the chair of our Religious Practices Committee, Lee Feinstein (707) 827-3007 (email leefeinstein5@gmail.com).

If you have yet to take advantage of our on-line services, I want to invite you to join us. True, there’s no substitute for getting together physically and breaking bread together, but it still succeeds in creating a wonderful community. With the help of Lisa Iskin’s talented singing and guitar playing, our Friday evening Shabbat services make it possible to participate without a prayer book. We start with a children’s corner at 5:50, light candles together at 6:00 p.m., and conclude with Kiddush over wine at about 6:30.

On Saturday morning, we’ve created a virtual replica of the traditional service we enjoyed in pre-Covid days, starting at 9:30 and proceeding through the Shabbat prayers, Torah and Haftarah readings, (which include calling participants to chant or say blessings over the Torah) and a d’var Torah. We even have friends join us from locations such as St. Louis, St. Paul and Boston!

In this way, I hope we can continue to provide you with a stimulating spiritual environment and the warmth of our Beth Ami community.

Sincerely,

Mordecai Miller

Looking at Civil Rights and Social Justice

We hope everyone has a chance to attend the Social Action and Adult Education series by Benjamin Mertz, on Civil Rights and Social Justice. It takes place Thursdays, July 16, 23 and 30 at 7:00 p.m. The first session was very eye-opening, and I would like to share this article from The Atlantic. Innocence Is Irrelevant in the Age of the Plea Bargain – from The Atlantic

We hope to see you for the coming two sessions.

Intentional neglect and national outrage

Without doubt, the United States of America has much to be proud of. The great experiment in a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” which the founders of this country began almost two hundred and fifty years ago, has brought the blessings of opportunity, freedom and happiness to a vast number of its citizens.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that these blessings have been denied to many Americans, simply by reason of race. This list doesn’t pretend to be exhaustive. Most of us would be shocked at the living conditions both squalid and life-threatening which so many of our people endure, especially those who occupy our inner cities; the sense of hopelessness, and in contrast, the perception of white privilege which guarantee the growing disparity between the empowered and the under-privileged. However, the fact that at this time, when those who are commissioned to protect all citizens are shown to have a long-standing and consistent pattern of abuse and brutality against the Black American population, we cannot be surprised when that segment of our society expresses their fury and has risen in revolt against such treatment.

On the one hand, the number of those in support of the “Black lives matter” movement is a source of encouragement and hope. In establishing the Constitution, the framers clearly sensed the importance of being able to express outrage on the part of the governed through “peaceful assembly.” I believe they were wise enough to realize that it might take such expression to bring about needed change on the part of those who occupied the positions of power. Even today, the vast majority of the people taking part in the current demonstrations are (almost surprisingly) seeking a peaceful way to express their systemic anger at the long history of abuse, both physical and economical, stretching in an unending chain all the way back to the days of slavery.

Tragically, at the same time, there are those individuals who see, in all this, an opportunity to undermine through violence, destruction of property, and pillage, the foundations of our society. Here we depend on our institutions of law-enforcement, local, State and, if necessary, Federal, to assist law-abiding citizens to bring such criminal behavior under control and restore order.

A greater tragedy would befall our society, if we were to mix up these two groups. We should not use the latter civil disobedience as an excuse to attack all those other people for using their right to peacefully assemble and bring their legitimate issues to the public forum.

It’s been about 170 years since this country was almost cast asunder by the American Civil War. It’s fortunate outcome was the official end to slavery. While emancipation was a major milestone, it could never be considered the end of the road. True, there have been important steps taken towards bringing the black community into line with the majority of its citizens, but the truth is, the expressions of outright racism and, in this case, brutality, the clear inequality of opportunity in the economic and educational areas, continue to pervade our society. This is truly a blight on all of us.

The response of “All lives matter,” to “Black lives matter,” misses the point entirely! True, the black community is hardly the only community that experiences bigotry or racism in our country. However, the fact that their predecessors were forcibly brought to this country under inhumane conditions, the length of time they have had to endure racial discrimination, economic abuse and brutality, makes a compelling argument for the need to address this outrage in an immediate and determined way.

At this point in history, it becomes imperative to devote significant resources to work with the black community to address the wrongs of history: to do our best to re-educate and hold accountable those who suffer from the social disease of racism. By working to grant the opportunities of full citizenship to that segment of the population that has suffered the most, we can begin a process of securing the blessings of this nation and its Constitution to all who come under its banner.

Rabbi Mordecai Miller

Congregation Beth Ami

Santa Rosa, CA

Social Action Committee Yearly Review

The SAC has a very active membership committed to Tikun Olam ( repairing our world)
The members include: Judy Gunnar,Lenore Holloway , Judi Hyman, Rita Kagan, karen Herskovic  ,Tish Levee, Cheryle Stern Miller, Susan Miller, lyla Nathan ( co chair), Ellen Mundell, Bobbie Rosenthal ( co chair), Carol Swanson, Michelle Zygielbaum .  I thank them for their amazing
support.
We are committed to projects throughout the year.  We , along with the generous help of the congregation ,collect healthy  non- perishable food for the Redwook Empire Food Bank.
We also have a yearly winter  clothing drive to which the congregation gives to generously.This year we delivered  warm clothes and blankets  to Catholic Charities.  They do a wonderful job of distribution to those in need.
*Dinner at the Palms*
The Palms is an converted motel on Santa Rosa Ave. that is run by the veteran’s administration and Catholic Charities providing housing and services for previously un- sheltered individuals.  Every 2 months we prepare a hot meal for 75-80 residents .We often serve chili, meatballs, salad, and dessert.  This year Bernard and Maria Soltes ( pasta etc.) have provided their delicious pasta dishes.  Also Jerry Newman prepared smoked Brisket.  Both meals were so appreciated.  Thanks to you all the Mitzvah!
Last month ,because of Covid  19 ,we delivered 80 individually packed meals. We are planning  to deliver a chili dinner on Wednesday, August 26.
*Redwood Empire Food Bank:*
For most of the year we went every 2 months to help at the food bank. We would also go out for a simple meal following the work. We had many people join us over the years .We look forward to starting this activity as soon as we can and hope that many of you can join us.    I am sure everyone knows how important the food bank is at this time. The numbers of families in need has risen dramatically.*Toiletries  collection and distribution with nursery school *
We collected toiletries with the nursery school. The children packed them and delivered items to those in need. We hope to have more inter generational activities with them.Shabbaton with Beth Haman
In November we helped the adult education committee with Shabbat dinner  and the cabaret. It was a lovely weekend and well attended.Of course our activities have been limited during the last months.  We have zoomed and kept  in contact as a group. Any one interested in participating in any way please call or email the office or Lyla Nathan.@ 5267438.  Lylanathan5@gmail.com   We have will continue to do what we can to support those in need.
Thanks for everyone’s continued support of our committee and our mission of Tikun Olam,
Shalom, lyla

Looking at Civil Rights and Social Justice

We hope everyone has a chance to attend the Social Action and Adult Education series by Benjamin Mertz, on Civil Rights and Social Justice. It takes place Thursdays, July 16, 23 and 30 at 7:00 p.m. The first session was very eye-opening, and I would like to share this article from The Atlantic. Innocence Is Irrelevant in the Age of the Plea Bargain – from The Atlantic

We hope to see you for the coming two sessions.

No Hate. No Fear. No Antisemitism.

No Hate. No Fear. No Antisemitism.

Seven years ago, the Israel Committee hosted a series alerting us to the rise in antisemitism, from far away to within our community. In the ensuing years, the virus of antisemitism blossomed. It is taught in some churches and mosques. It is embraced by both the far right, such as the KKK, and the new left, such as BDS and the BLM. Most Blacks are not antisemitic. But many of BLM’s leaders are. Schrader notes “After several weeks of protests, BLM leaders made explicitly antisemitic comments, and BLM in the UK even tweeted publicly calling for an end to Israel.” She reports that multiple protests saw crowds chanting about Jews being “our dogs.”

Antisemitism among Blacks is especially painful for those of us who marched for racial justice. Some Blacks now ask us to ask them for forgiveness. We Jews should not apologize to others who engage in antisemitism, Schrader writes. Those who subscribe to Louis Farrakhan’s vicious ideology of hate declare the Jewish community “hasn’t done enough” to help the Black community and the existence of a Jewish homeland is an abomination. They blame Jews for the suffering of Arabs living under Hamas and the Palestinian Authority rule.

Let us not apologize to antisemites. Let us follow the guidance of former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss to be proud Jews. No Hate. No Fear.

Together, let us #stopthehate . Dina Rabhan asks us to review the history of antisemitism at youtu.be/tUrDrhrNqas:

For Twitter: Don’t let this video be taken over by the haters! Share, Like, and Comment! #stopthehate youtu.be/tUrDrhrNqas
For Facebook: Education is the key to change. Like and Comment! youtu.be/tUrDrhrNqas

Bari Weiss. Proud American. Proud Jew.

Dancing on Zoom?

It’s a sad fact that folk dancing does not lend itself to social distancing in any way. Even without holding hands, the increased respiration and movement through a shared space, and for a long duration of time, has much more potential for virus transmission than quiet sitting activities, or briefly passing people on a walk. I don’t think I could manage to dance while wearing a mask; most people have said that they could not dance in masks as well. So I’m feeling pretty discouraged about this hobby i love so much.

There are lots of zoom groups and facebook live streams designed to help people who want to watch, hear the music, and dance in their homes.

I’ll list them below as i get notices.

Be well,

Leanne

Yaron Meishar of Rokdim.co.il/#/ has prepared 20 dance sessions that you can watch or dance to. They include a few nostalgia sessions, a debka session and several sessions of Moshiko’s dances (It’s really great to see him dancing some of his dances again).

Orly and Aaron host choreographers in zoom dancing Wednesdays  6:00-9:00 pm Pacific
zoom.us/j/512501420 (Password: balagan)

Chicagoisraelidancing.com

 

 

Welcome Shabbat as a Community

We would love for you and your family to join us Friday evenings 6:00 pm on the Beth Ami Zoom page  to join in welcoming the Shabbat. Our plan is for each family to have their Shabbat Candles ready to kindle.  We will start the Zoom session at 6:00 pm; light our candles together and (while on mute), join Lisa Iskin in chanting the Blessing.
Immediately following we will have an abbreviated musical Kabbalat Shabbat service which should end around 6:40 pm. This will conclude with the chanting of Kiddush and we hope you will be able to join us for this part, too.
We hope that joining as a community, in this way, will lift all our spirits with the beauty and holiness of Shabbat.
b’Shalom,
Carolyn Metz,   Mordecai Miller