Robert Hunter may have said it best in one of his most famous songs, Truckin. “What a long, strange trip it’s been.“ So much has changed over these past months. So many of the things we took for granted as a matter of course are now precious acts we wish we could reclaim. Hugging people we love. Laughing with friends at a favorite restaurant. Grabbing a coffee and schmoozing. Working out in the gym.
And, of course, being inside the temple.
I think about the temple constantly. All of that beautifully renovated space along with a truly exquisite new community room. It sits there, just waiting for us. What will it be like when we can finally walk in?
Of course, the fantasy is that when High Holy Days come we will enter together, laughing and crying and hugging each other. That feeling we get looking around at our community gathered together for a new year is a signature experience. Seeing old friends, sharing stories, remembering loved ones who are gone, singing familiar melodies, feeling gratitude… there’s nothing like it.
Alas… It’s just a fantasy. As much as we may want to enter, the fact is simply this: it’s too risky. There will be no High Holy Day gatherings inside Temple Beth Avodah for 5781.
We’ve looked at this from a thousand angles and, in the end, our choices must be made from a collective perspective. We know that it’s not safe for our older congregants. It’s not safe for immunocompromised congregants. It’s not even safe to sing!
There will be opportunities for small groups to one day be in the temple. Our Early Learning Center and our school will open, adhering to all guidelines for health and safety. But. We will always place the welfare of our congregants at the top of our list of concerns. We must be apart in body, but we will be connected by our deep sense of community and tradition.
Our history as a congregation, our history as a people, has taught us many things about survival. We’ve learned a lot about resilience and courage. We’ve learned to create alternatives where there were none. COVID-19 will not deter us.
This year the High Holy Days will primarily use online platforms – a combination of pre-recorded and live content . We’ll provide you with the tools you need to be a part of our communal experience. It will be spiritually alive, provocative, embracing, joyful, reflective, and even more than that. That’s a promise . We will not gather in the sanctuary, but we will have each other: online, on Zoom, and a whole variety of other platforms. We are in this together.
Will it be utterly different? Absolutely. Will it be unlike anything we’ve ever done before? 100%. Are we creating a new paradigm for worship and congregational life? Yes, and it is immensely challenging and very exciting. When we emerge, we will be different; we will be transformed. We will remember to cherish things a little bit more, to hold the people we love a little bit closer, and to embrace even more firmly what it means to be part of an engaged, living community. The door to the heart of Temple Beth Avodah will always be open. The sacred light of our community will continue to shine.