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At Central Synagogue

Coronavirus Update: Important News from Central Synagogue

Posted March 12, 2020

This letter was sent to Central Synagogue members on March 12, 2020

Pikuach Nefesh, the principle of “saving a life,” is paramount in our tradition. It overrides all other laws including the observance of Shabbat. With the explosion of COVID-19 cases in New York, it is no exaggeration to say that our response may be a matter of life or death. We have been consulting with some of the leading health institutions in our city, and they have been clear that one of the most important goals is to help “flatten the curve,” to slow down the spread of the virus through social distancing and lessen the potential for overburdening our city and nation’s healthcare system. Given our tradition’s mandate to put saving lives above all other mitzvot, the leadership team made the very difficult decision that, at the start of Shabbat this Friday, Central will become a completely “virtual” congregation. This is one of those moments when a community is tested but can also provide sanctuary — even when we cannot physically be in our spiritual home.

Here is what being a “virtual” community means:

  • Shabbat services and other services, including Daily Minyan, will be live-streamed only.
  • Our Saturday morning B’nei Mitzvah services will be open only to immediate family and livestreamed for all others.
  • Critical lifecycle events such as funerals will continue in person for immediate family and be livestreamed if they are held in our sanctuary.
  • As of Monday, Nursery School, LCLJ, and all adult engagement classes will no longer meet in person, and will move, as possible, online. Follow-up emails on specific programs will be sent shortly.
  • Starting Monday, the Community House will be closed, and Central staff will be working from home. We will continue to be available to you through email and phone.
  • All of these decisions will carry through March 30 at the earliest, and we will communicate any changes as appropriate. This includes my decision to postpone my sabbatical by at least three weeks, so that I can be present at this challenging time.

    While our physical presence will be reduced, we will be seeking additional ways to build community in creative ways, taking advantage of technologies available to us and in which we have invested. Please see below for a few upcoming programs – and keep an eye on your inboxes for future virtual opportunities.

    When I was younger and sneezed, my grandmother used to say, “Gesundheit! To your good health.” I never really appreciated the blessing embedded in that sentiment, but I offer it to all of you as we navigate a new world in which every sniffle or cough becomes a concern. May you and your loved ones be blessed with health.


    Rabbi Angela W. Buchdahl
    Senior Rabbi


    Virtually Central: Opportunities to Connect and Come Together (Without Leaving Home)

    Shabbat & Upcoming Worship Services: We are fortunate to be blessed with a wonderful livestreaming capability, already used by thousands each week who join by watching on our website, our Facebook page, the JBS cable TV network (click here to find your station), or listening by phone (1-605-475-5619 with pass code 776-041-1657). Beginning this Friday, services will also be moderated on Facebook by a member of our clergy, who will be available to answer questions, chat with participants, provide commentary, and generally support our virtual participants. This week, Rabbi Dan Ross will help connect our virtual community.

    Sad about missing friends on Shabbat? Host a Shabbat/Facebook viewing party! Using our Facebook livestream, invite friends to join you in celebrating Shabbat online. Click here to learn more about this great way to remain virtually connected.

    A Virtual Lunch & Learn: In Jewish Harmony – Music from Synagogues Around the World
    Monday, March 16, 1:00-2:00 pm
    This multi-sensory virtual visit to ten historic synagogues around the world, performed by an Israeli classical music trio will now be livestreamed, and moderated on Facebook by a member of the Adult Engagement team. You will be treated to live musical performances, authentic to each era and civilization, while viewing the unique architectural features and artistic design of these structures central to Jewish life. Click here for more information.

    Middle East Peace Plan & Unpacking the Israeli Election, Webinar with Ambassador Dennis Ross and Karin Lagziel
    Tuesday, March 17, 2:30 pm
    This just-announced webinar being held in partnership with Park Ave Synagogue will be moderated by Israeli emissary Karin Lagziel and veteran Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiator Ambassador Dennis Ross. They will discuss the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan and the recent Israeli election results. To register and learn more, click here.

    More virtual opportunities to come!