Like all of us coping with the implications of the coronavirus, we have spent the past few weeks in touch with community members, with our Coalition leadership, and with colleagues and experts from around the country, talking about how we respond to the challenge of this moment.
The world is changing fast. Every day the news brings new tallies of infection rates and more information overload. This past week, that news included widespread cancellations of public gatherings, including faith communities, and schools. The word “anxious” doesn’t quite begin to describe how many of us feel. As we begin this letter to you, first we want to invite you to join us in praying for a refu’ah shleymah (a complete healing) for all those who have been impacted by COVID-19.
As you have heard from us in the past week, the Coalition leadership has made the decision to cancel all of our in-person programs for the time being. This is being done to protect all of us, but also as an act of piku’ach nefesh (protecting life). By practicing this kind of social distancing as a society, as hard as it is, we hope to gain a foothold against the virus and protect the lives of those who are most likely to be killed by this illness. This past Friday afternoon, our Coalition Board met to talk about our next steps. During that gathering, we talked about all that we have given up in response to this crisis. We also spoke about how we plan to move forward, and continue the important work of the Coalition.
As we take necessary steps to mitigate the spread of the virus, we are creatively devising ways to continue Coalition programs through new avenues. Using virtual meeting space and technology, we plan to keep our community as vibrant as we possibly can. The alternative future of a community going on hiatus by canceling its services and programs and ceasing to meet at all is simply unacceptable.
If you have questions about how to utilize any of this new technology, know that you are not alone. You can be in touch with Rabbi James directly if you need help in downloading technology or making sure you can connect virtually. Both Zoom and Facebook can be accessed from a computer, or a smart phone. Zoom can also be accessed through a landline.
The Coalition is a sacred community. Whether we meet in person or not, or whether we have Shabbat dinner or not, we will find ways to connect. In the coming week, Rabbi James will be reaching out individually by phone to all Coalition members. As always, our Coalition Cares committee is here to support our members, especially at this time. While we are taking measures to protect the community at large, we are more committed than ever to ensuring that our Coalition is present for every member. If you want to speak with Rabbi James more immediately, please do not hesitate to reach out to him. His phone number is 413-886-9957.
One last tip: If you are looking for something fun to do to pass the time until next Friday’s Shabbat service, considering taking a virtual tour of some of the world’s most famous museums.
We look forward to the time when we can be together again. Until then, we are moving forward and inventing a future for the Coalition that allows us to connect in new ways, to share in existing traditions, and to be in our joyful community as always.