I noted in my sermon on Yom Kippur morning that the COVID pandemic merely accelerated trends that were already happening in Jewish life and American religion generally. While we began Zooming our services as a result of the pandemic, many synagogues had already been live streaming their services for quite some time and we would have probably done so as well at some point. Because many of our Shabbat and holiday services are on Zoom as well as in person, members are able to take part even if they have health or mobility challenges or have moved out of the area. But particularly for holidays, there is still no substitute for gathering in person for those who are able. It was nice to note that this year our in person attendance on the High Holidays was much higher than the remote attendance (whereas the prior two years it was about 50/50) and we had a nice group of people for the first day of Sukkot and the kiddush in the Sukkah afterwards.
This coming Saturday night at 7 pm we will have an in-person and Zoom service for Simchat Torah. We will be in the Anita Levine Chapel so that we do not displace our church tenants who are in the Sanctuary on Saturday nights. I want to thank Hazzan Komrad for her willingness to be with us in person that evening despite the significant inconvenience to her and Dr. Mark Komrad in doing so, and I hope that you will join us for our first in person Simchat Torah celebration since 2019. On the morning of Yom Kippur, one of the points I made in my sermon was that post-WWII American Judaism has been largely child focused and as the demographics of our congregation and community change, we have to refocus and not assume that synagogues will be kept alive by a pipeline of families looking for Hebrew school and Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This is by way of saying that Simchat Torah is not just for kids or for families with kids at home, and Hazzan Komrad and I look forward to celebrating with you on Saturday night. Sunday morning services will be on Zoom only as we have tenants in a number of different spaces in our building.
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul -- after a hiatus of two weeks for High Holiday prep. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at email@example.com or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian