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Congregational Updates During COVID-19

03/20/2020 01:45:36 PM


Do you need help? Do you want to help someone? Please check out our new page:
Beth Ahabah is Here for You

Check your e-news and website calendar for updates on events & programming. 

For links to online learning, please visit the calendar and select the date of the session you wish to attend.
For a Zoom tutorial, please click here.

Click here for a collection from the URJ of resources for Jewish life at this challenging time, including "How to Talk to Your Kids about Canceled Summer Plans" which links to resources for parenting and family support.

Click here for a collection of relevant prayers and poems published on Ritual Well.


01/28/2021 07:49:50 PM


The Richmond City and Henrico County Health Districts has provided the following resources concerning the COVID-19 Vaccine and it's local distribution. The next phase, 1B which includes the individuals 65 years old and older, will begin soon.

Frequently Asked Questions
Click HERE to view questions.

Phase 1B interest Form
Click HERE to download the form.

Why I Should Get the Vaccine?
Click HERE to download flyer.

A Closer Look at COVID Vaccine Safety
Click HERE to download flyer.

Register for an Upcoming YMCA Community Conversations/Town Hall
(open to the public) 

  • Wednesday, January 27th from 12:00pm to 1:00pm
    Click HERE to register.
  • Monday, February 8th from 5:30pm to 6:30pm
    Click HERE to register.
  • Wedesday, February 17th from 5:00pm to 6:00pm
    Click HERE to register.  

Or Watch this Recorded Town Hall Video: Click HERE to view video.

RIPE Committee Update

01/15/2021 01:11:19 PM


Charley Scher

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Beth Ahabah leadership recognized the need for centralized guidance regarding the safe operation of all aspects of Congregation life.  To that end, we convened a committee consisting of medical experts, clergy, staff, lay leadership and congregants (including business owners and Religious School parents). The committee named itself the RIPE (Return to In-Person Events) Committee, describing both its ultimate mission and the hopefulness that such a return would be possible in the months that followed.
As we move into 2021 and push through the seemingly endless winter that has seen COVID cases rise drastically throughout America and in Central Virginia, we want to update you on the work of our committee as well as the guidelines currently in place for Beth Ahabah.
The RIPE Committee has been meeting regularly for many months. We continually review safety protocols for life cycle events and discuss the need for restriction on return to in-person Shabbat and other worship services, Religious School, Beit Midrash, committee meetings, and Congregational programming, as well as return to campus for all staff and clergy. 
At each RIPE Committee meeting, we receive public health guidance from our two physician members: Dr. Neal Carl, a family medicine and health and wellness specialist whose practice includes a significant number of older individuals; and Dr. Peter Heyman, a pediatrics specialist whose practice focuses on the youngest individuals in our community. Dr. Carl and Dr. Heyman are well-versed in the science and medicine related to COVID, and enhance the committee’s understanding of public health guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health, as well as the Executive Orders and related guidelines from the Office of the Governor of Virginia. They are indispensable in shaping our understanding of the boundaries of safe practice in all aspects of current and potential community gatherings.
Although the current legal restrictions in Virginia do not prevent religious services of any size from being held in-person due to a specific exception, the RIPE Committee – with guidance from our clergy as well as our physician members – has prioritized the Jewish value of Pikuach Nefesh (literally “saving a life”). We are taught as Jews that this is the most important value of all, and it means specifically that in the time of COVID, we must place health and safety above our desire to be together. Accordingly, we believe that it is incumbent at this time to follow restrictions similar to those that apply to non-religious gatherings in Virginia since COVID itself does not know the difference between people worshipping and people getting together for secular reasons. Therefore, due to the extraordinary health crisis in the Richmond area at the present time, Shabbat and holiday services and all other Congregational activities will remain virtual until further notice. We are also maintaining the current attendance limits of 25 individuals at life cycle services in the Sanctuary and 10 individuals at the graveside for funerals. In addition to complying with other specific safety and health requirements, all attendees at life cycle services must have masks on and be appropriately distanced (at least 10 feet away at all times in the Sanctuary) from those not in their household.
We know that these limitations required for health and safety have been an unprecedented challenge, and we have continued to enhance our virtual offerings and options to create and maintain engagement and community-building during this difficult time.  
We are hopeful that the post-holiday COVID spike will peak as expected in the upcoming weeks and then recede, and that distribution of the various COVID vaccines to the higher priority groups across our state will also serve to diminish the risk of infection and lead to a loosening of public health restrictions. We will communicate regularly with you and are optimistic that we will have happier and more welcome news for you in the months ahead. Along with the rest of the Congregation, we absolutely cannot wait to be able to move toward a return to normalcy. We will get there, and it will be great! Thanks to all of you for your patience and thoughtfulness along the way.
Wishing you all health and happiness in this new (secular) year, on behalf of all of the committee members:

  • Rabbi Scott Nagel
  • Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman
  • Heather Dinkin, Director of Congregational Operations
  • James Hensley, Facilities Manager
  • Charley Scher, Congregational President
  • Julie Mullian and Lee Katz, Congregational Vice Presidents
  • David Aschheim, Anne Blankman, Dr. Neal Carl, Dr. Peter Heyman, and Art Mullian, Congregants

Update and Schedule for High Holy Days

08/02/2020 05:00:25 PM


Aug. 2, 2020

Dear Congregation Beth Ahabah Family,

Thank you so much for your participation in our In-Person Shabbat & High Holy Days Participation Survey! We are proud to report that approximately 50% of our membership responded to the survey and shared their thoughts, questions, concerns, and excitement about ideas for us to stay connected during High Holy Day services this fall. We could not make these important and difficult decisions without your input.

Based on the health and safety information available to us as well as feedback from the survey,
the High Holy Day (HHD) services this fall will be fully virtual, streamed from the Sanctuary.

Some details are still being finalized, but we wanted to let you know what we have planned thus far…

You’ll have the best seat in the house. These virtual services will include all of the familiar aspects of the High Holy Days with prayers and readings alongside Cantorial, choral, and cello music, all in a dynamic multi-camera presentation run by a professional videography company.

Both printed and digital prayer books will be available. As always, we encourage all of you to sing and pray along using the machzor (High Holy Day prayer books). Everyone will have the opportunity either to use the free virtual flip-books available online thanks to the generosity of CCAR Press, or to pick up print books from Beth Ahabah to borrow during the HHD. (Print books will be available to borrow on a limited basis; more information will be communicated about how to sign up for, pick up, and drop off printed versions of the regular HHD books as well as the Young Family Service books.)

Guest “Tickets” and Access to Services will be available. Information to easily access all virtual services will be provided at a later date. Some services will be publicly visible, and some services will require a member/guest password to view. In a typical year, Congregation Beth Ahabah raises over $9,000 in the sale of guest tickets. This year, we are making guest “tickets” available to enable non-members to access these virtual services. We are suggesting a minimum donation of $54 per individual / $180 per family when guest “tickets” are requested by a member. (Members in good standing will receive access to all HHD services at no additional cost, as usual.)

Additionally, we are working on other ways to enhance our High Holy Days experience and engage with our community, and we will let you know as we schedule them! We are committed to making this High Holy Day season as memorable and fulfilling as possible for our entire Congregational community.


Schedule of Services and Activities (more may be added):

Click here to view updated schedule!


We are an amazing community. Thank you for your patience and honest feedback as we continue to navigate the uncertainty of this time together. We look forward to resuming our many in-person activities as soon as it is safe to do so, and until then offering as many ways to connect and engage at a safe distance as possible! We thank you for working with us and we are so grateful that we are working through this difficult time together.

Rabbi Scott Nagel
The Sophia and Nathan Gumenick Senior Rabbi

Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman
Cantor and B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator

Heather Dinkin
Director of Congregational Operations

James Hensley
Facilities Manager

Charley Scher
President, Board of Managers

Update on Beth Ahabah Services and Programming

07/22/2020 11:35:25 AM


Dear Congregation Beth Ahabah Family,

We are thinking of you all, and hope you are able to stay cool during this hot weather.
Since last month, the executive staff has met with the Return to In-Person Events Committee (a group of lay leaders and congregants, including medical advisors) to continue to examine our health and safety protocols and establish a plan for congregational activities.
Please carefully read the update below on several areas of Beth Ahabah Services and Programming. As always, our goal is to meet the needs of our community while upholding the Jewish value of pikuach nefesh (preserving life) and prioritizing everyone’s health and safety. We will continue to fully abide by governmental regulations and the guidelines provided by the CDC.

High Holy Days
Please fill out this important survey, if you have not already: In-Person Shabbat & High Holy Days Participation Survey (A number of the questions we have seen in the survey comments are answered in the FAQ on our HHD webpage.) We appreciate the feedback we have received so far and would like to hear from as many congregants as possible by Thurs. July 23!

Friday Night Shabbat Services In-Person Option (Postponed)
Due to the changing nature of the virus, and the recent upward trend in both national and local numbers, the committee has recommended we postpone the in-person option for Friday night Shabbat services, so Friday night services during August will continue to be virtual-only services streamed to our YouTube Channel. The committee will frequently revisit the data to determine when it would be advisable to offer in-person options in the Sanctuary. The staff and committee also plans to explore the possibility of occasional outdoor Shabbat offerings, depending upon the interest levels expressed in the In-Person Shabbat & High Holy Days Participation Survey.

B’nei Mitzvah Saturday Services
Saturday B’nei Mitzvah services will proceed as private events within established and CDC-compliant limitations (masks, distancing, and restricted number of in-person attendees). Options for B’nei Mitzvah families will include livestreaming the Saturday service publicly or privately. Until further notice, there will be no receptions, food service, or any other pre- or post-service gatherings on the synagogue campus.

Monday Night Beit Midrash Adult Educational Programming
Due to the risk factors associated with regular in-person gathering at this time, Monday Night Beit Midrash classes for adults will be offered as virtual classes through Zoom until further notice.

Mark Your Calendars:
First Day of Beit Midrash (both adult & teen) is Monday, October 19.

Religious School (PreK-10) Programming
Since 1846, Congregation Beth Ahabah has provided quality educational opportunities for its youngest members, even through very challenging times.

This fall the tradition continues. Congregation Beth Ahabah will provide an enriching, meaningful, enjoyable, and safe Religious School experience. In light of the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, and in consultation with our Return-to-In-Person-Events Committee, the decision has been made that Religious School (Pre-K through 10th Grade) will be virtual and online for at least the first 10 weeks: October through December. This will include weekly online classrooms and other resources for each grade level, Beth Ahabah generated content, as well as engagement with Rabbi Scott Nagel and Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman for both students and parents. Our staff is busy exploring many resources and options to make these weeks “Happy Sundays” (and Mondays) even if we are not on campus.

Mark Your Calendars:
• We are planning a Drive-By Party and Materials Pick-Up on Sunday, September 13 (alternative pick-up available Tuesday, September 15).
• First Day of Religious School is Sunday, October 4.
• First Day of Beit Midrash (both adult & teen) is Monday, October 19.

Click here to register for Religious School!


Thank you for your patience as we continue to navigate this uncertain time together. We look forward to resuming our many in-person activities as soon as it is safe to do so. If you have not already, check out the resources on our page Beth Ahabah Is Here For You, and thank you once again for your understanding and for being such an amazing community.

Rabbi Scott Nagel
The Sophia and Nathan Gumenick Senior Rabbi

Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman
Cantor and B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator

Heather Dinkin
Director of Congregational Operations

James Hensley
Facilities Manager

Congregation Beth Ahabah Board of Managers Statement of Dedication to Systemic Equity, Racial Justice and Empowered Inclusion

06/29/2020 09:08:39 AM


“…I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented… Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

- Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1986

This is a moment in history when we at Congregation Beth Ahabah are called upon to take sides – and we unequivocally affirm that we are on the side of all those tirelessly and diligently fighting to eradicate racism in our community, Commonwealth and nation. Yet it is not enough to simply release a statement opposing racism and affirming that Black lives matter. These words, while important and necessary, are only words. Our Jewish tradition is steeped in action, and our deeply-held value of tikkun olam, repairing the world through the pursuit of social justice, requires us to do more than speak out – it compels us to take active steps to pursue systemic equity for all our nation’s citizens.

Our American society is currently navigating a myriad of challenges related to racial inequity: not only the COVID-19 pandemic with all its complications, but also a new chapter in the ongoing national fight against systematic racism, economic and social inequality, criminal injustice, abusive law enforcement, inequitable healthcare access and voter suppression. These challenges disproportionately impact American communities of color, and we must advocate and diligently work to rectify each of these inequities.

Therefore, the Beth Ahabah Board of Managers pledges to implement the following actions to continue our advocacy for systemic equity, racial justice and empowered inclusion for all:

  • Diligently work to create inclusive communities grounded in meaning, understanding and connection.  Continue our review of all our policies, practices, embedded language, messages and culture to ensure we are living and implementing our sacred values of respect and inclusion for all.
  • Provide educational opportunities to congregational members of all ages – including implicit bias training and workshops on racial and social disparities – to further the understanding of the roots of racial injustice in America generally and Beth Ahabah historically.
  • Strengthen our existing community partnerships and develop new relationships with local partners in communities of color. Nurture these partnerships to build shared experiences and work together for positive change. Seek understanding from these partners of ways we can best serve as a trusted ally committed to the removal of the vestiges and symbols of racism, bigotry and discrimination in our community, city and society.
  • Re-dedicate ourselves to our Brit Olam (covenant with our world) partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center as we advocate on the local, state and national levels for positive social change in the many areas impacting racial and social disparities in our society.

We understand that concrete action is long overdue, and that permanent constructive change requires tremendous energy and resources. But as we are reminded in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Ancestors) 2:16, “It is not upon you to complete the work; neither are you free to neglect it.” We shall not neglect this critical work; Beth Ahabah is committed to working every day, month and year to help eradicate social inequity and build a world reflective of our highest principles and ideals.

Congregational Update: Shabbat & High Holy Day Services

06/19/2020 04:45:31 PM


Dear Congregation Beth Ahabah Family,

As the last few months have progressed, our lives have changed in ways we could never have predicted. We at Beth Ahabah want to continue supporting you in any way we can.

While we are currently operating remotely from home offices and holding virtual-only services, the executive staff has been meeting with an incredible collection of lay leaders serving on Congregation Beth Ahabah’s Return to In-Person Events Committee, including medical advisors who are congregants in addition to members of many different cohorts of the congregation, to examine our health and safety protocols and establish a plan for in-person worship services and other temple activities. The goal of this committee is to develop strategies and solutions to most effectively meet the needs of our community while upholding the Jewish value of pikuach nefesh, preserving life, and providing for everyone’s health and safety, which is our highest priority. We will, of course, fully abide by governmental regulations and the guidelines provided by the CDC.

With all of this in mind, and subject to change at any time as circumstances in our local area and state may dictate, we are excited to announce that the committee has approved a limited in-person option for Shabbat services beginning Friday, August 7. Additionally, we will continue to provide online access to all services. Please carefully read the following information about this tentative plan:

  • As we get closer to August 7, the committee will revisit if an in-person option is still feasible. If this changes, we will communicate it to you as soon as possible.

  • To meet all necessary guidelines, there will be a limited number of people allowed inside the building. As such, registration online will be required to gain entry prior to each service. At the moment, it is our intention to limit in-person attendance on August 7 to no more than 75 people. This allows for ample spacing within the synagogue well in excess of six feet.

  • For those who do attend in person, there will be a series of entry protocols and requirements including but not limited to wearing masks, social distancing (including signage, floor markers, pew markers, and more). More details about these entry protocols and requirements will be communicated prior to August 7.

  • Because of the spacing requirements to maintain a safe distance between individuals and families, all on-campus services will be held in the Sanctuary until further notice.

  • We are considering a number of other creative ideas for future services – stay tuned!

Regarding the High Holy Days, we are thinking creatively and are working toward a Once-In-A-Lifetime High Holiday Experience that will truly be something memorable and enjoyable. Stay tuned for more details as we continue to put everything in place for a BIG announcement.

Please know that the executive staff are working hard on a plan which accommodates the changing nature of our world. It is our goal to ensure that you have the best High Holy Day experience possible.

Please take note of the following High Holy Day dates:

  • Rosh Hashanah Evening: Friday, September 18

  • Rosh Hashanah Day: Saturday, September 19

  • Yom Kippur Evening: Sunday, September 27

  • Yom Kippur Day: Monday, September 28

Thank you for your patience as we navigate this uncertain time together. We look forward to resuming our many in-person activities as soon as it is safe to do so, and thank you once again for your understanding and for being such an amazing community.

Rabbi Scott Nagel
The Sophia and Nathan Gumenick Senior Rabbi

Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman
Cantor and B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator

Heather Dinkin
Director of Congregational Operations

James Hensley
Facilities Manager

Charley Scher
President, Board of Managers

Making Mensch Masks

06/04/2020 02:46:54 PM



Beth Ahabah is joining forces with St. James’s to launch “Mensch Masks” -- an ambitious project to make 1,000 face masks, packaged with educational information, to be distributed to Richmond’s most vulnerable populations through a partnership with The Market at 25th in Church Hill.

COVID-19 is impacting everyone, but a disturbing trend in the U.S. is that people of color, particularly African Americans, disproportionately experience more serious symptoms and greater number of deaths. This disparity is the consequence of a continuing global inequity between races and cultures in our country. People of color more often: 
•    live in crowded housing
•    work in essential occupations, in close contact with others
•    have inconsistent access to health care
•    experience higher stress and lower immunity due to inequalities, discrimination and threats of violence
•    exhibit greater frequencies of chronic health conditions.

While instituting fair housing policies, improving employment opportunities and taking other steps to mitigate economic inequality will help in the future, there are ways to reduce risk of infection in vulnerable populations right now.

Underserved communities have less access to face masks and lack critical information such as mask-handling instructions. Increasing access and education can go a long way in helping folks protect themselves and others against unnecessary exposure to coronavirus.

Simply CLICK HERE to help with this important project. We need help:

Cutting Masks: We’ll provide a yard (or more) of fabric and a rectangle pattern with measurements to follow. 85 total yards need to be cut.  (Sure to provide “shear” joy!)

Sewing Masks: We’ll provide a simple pattern, instructions and pre-cut fabric and elastic. 1000 masks need to be sewn. (Guaranteed to keep you in stitches!)

Packaging Masks: We’ll provide finished masks, educational cards, and zip lock bags for you to assemble. 1000 masks need to be packaged (minimum of 50 packages/volunteer) (You may just feel like bagging the whole thing!)

Driving Masks: We’ll provide addresses to pick-up and deliver (doorstep to doorstep) materials between congregants’ homes, at various stages of the project. (We promise, this task won’t drive you crazy!)

Mensch Masks is a coordinated effort between Beth Ahabah’s Tikkun Olam (Social Action) and Brit Olam (Social Justice) committees and St. James’s Episcopal Church. For more information, please contact Katie Roeper at 804-539-5998 or

Message from the Beth Ahabah Clergy and Council for Social Justice

05/20/2020 06:00:53 AM


Clergy & Council for Social Justice

The month of May is recognized nationally as Jewish American Heritage Month (click here for more info), celebrating the more than 350-year history of Jewish contributions to American culture. In addition to bagels, lox, and Broadway, Jews have impacted American culture in many ways over the years, not least of which our participation in the fight for equality, fairness, and justice in our land for all its people. In that spirit, Congregation Beth Ahabah’s clergy and Social Justice Committee remind us that May is also Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month (click here for more info), acknowledging the many contributions and accomplishments of Asian and Pacific Americans to our local, state, and national culture.

During this pandemic, we must reject bigotry and show our solidarity with communities of Asian descent which are being targeted by some for discrimination in our region. We stand together with all Virginians who treat each other with compassion, empathy, respect and trust. We are all in this together. We believe that there are some tangible ways to show our support for our friends and neighbors, including patronizing local Asian/Pacific-owned businesses by purchasing deliveries and takeout, shopping online and buying gift cards; helping to denounce racism, dispel false statements and offer teachable moments whenever possible; and spreading the word through social networks by posting content that highlights the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to American society, both historically and during this crisis.

The websites linked above have a range of content about Jewish American Heritage and Asian/Pacific American Heritage, as well as linking to additional content at the National Archives, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian, and more! Happy Jewish American and Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month!

Omer Message from the Clergy

04/19/2020 12:00:43 PM


Rabbi Scott Nagel

After you read the Message from the Clergy below, please go to the new Omer Resources page 
for Omer Counting Guides, videos, art ideas, and other information about the Omer period leading up to Shavuot!

Sun. April 19, 2020 • 12:00pm

Dear Congregation Beth Ahabah Family,

Passover is behind us, yet our responsibility of remembering and reliving the Israelites’ journey to freedom is not quite finished. 

Much like we are feeling today in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Israelites were in a period of confusion and uncertainty after leaving Egypt, having no clear knowledge of what will come next. They were very quickly thrown into a new normal, a new way of living, and did not really know how to proceed, where to go or what to do next. It was a time of transition and uncertainly. A time in between.

Judaism marks this time of anxiety for our nation, the time between their past lives and their new ones by counting. Specifically we count the 49 days from the second day of Passover (the day we left Egypt, as we spent the first night being passed over) to our receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, when we finally get clear instructions and expectations of how to live our new lives in freedom. This process is called counting the Omer, or in Hebrew S’firat haOmer.

We count from 1-49 to teach us that the freedom of Passover was given to us so that we could receive the Torah on Shavuot. The counting of the Omer has a very specific method to it. Usually, when we’re anticipating something great, we count down, as kids do at the end of the school year, in the last few moments of the secular New Year, or the launching of a spacecraft: 10…9…8...7…etc. But Jewish counting is different. Each evening, we announce the number of days that have already passed, instead of those yet to come. For example, we say: Tonight, Sunday April 19, 2020 is the 11th Day, making 1 week and 4 days of the Omer. Why is it done this way? To see each day as an opportunity to react on where we’ve been, to see what today brings and to prepare for who we are yet to become. We pay attention to the passage of time, so that we spend our days wisely.

These 49 days are a lesson in mindfulness training: becoming familiar with that which we take for granted or act on automatically without contemplation.

It is exactly what has been happening in this time of social distancing and isolation. The pandemic has forced us to perform a factory reset on our lives. Our routines have stopped. Our regular patterns, habits and behaviors have stopped. Our plans have been put on hold, canceled and altered. We cannot plan too far ahead. We have been forced to be more aware of the present and be intentional in our outings, actions, and interactions. Auto-pilot is off, perhaps for first time in a long time.

When we say the Omer blessing and count each day, our tradition calls upon us to say Hineini, “Here I am,” each of these days, to cultivate our capacity to be present. With intention, our attention provides awareness and insight that we might not otherwise discover as we slowly and methodically make our way from the moment of freedom to the glory of the divine encounter of Torah at Sinai.

And as we continue to count how long we have been in isolation, we can plan how we will slowly, methodically, and intentionally make our way back out into the world again, because,God-willing, one day we will return fully into the world. We want the feeling of normalcy, to feel good again, to get back to routines of life, to get back to work outside the home, and for many the ability simply to get back to any work. The need for comfort and normalcy and return will be real and urgent, yet we can take this lesson from our tradition to ease in intentionally – it will be a big change. We have two choices: return as if nothing has happened, or take what we have learned in this crisis as a once-in-a-lifetime inexplicable, devastating, incredible, depressing, unimaginable, painful, profound, scary, eye-opening, heartbreaking, and overwhelming gift. This gift can be found in the great pause, the deep breath, this time in between the world we knew and the world yet to come.

This year as we count the Omer together, I invite you to think deeply and intentionally about what you want to add back to your life. This is our chance to define what our new freedom, our new lives, will look like. This is a sacred opportunity to trim the excess and waste and only load onto our lives the things that are necessary and welcome; things that make us happy, whole, and proud. To some extent, we can define what the world after COVID-19 will look like for us. Just like after a factory reset on our phone or computer, we can choose to lose the clutter, make improvements, and only put back what works.

Like the Israelites we will someday find freedom, and when we do, let us follow in their footsteps, and count each day with awareness as we choose goodness and Torah to guide our new lives ahead. 

Shavua tov and happy counting,

Rabbi Scott Nagel
The Sophia and Nathan Gumenick Senior Rabbi
Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman
Cantor and B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator

Message From the Rabbi

03/19/2020 05:00:09 PM


Rabbi Scott Nagel

Thurs. March 19, 2020 • 5:00pm

Dear Members and friends,

Fifteen hundred years ago, we were taught that if there is a plague in the city, gather your feet (i.e. limit the time you spend out of the house), as it is stated in the verse: "And none of you shall go out of the opening of his house until the morning (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Kamma, 60b)."

I find comfort in knowing that the uncertainty and anxiety we feel in our world today is not new. As governments, organizations, schools and individuals take precautions against the Coronavirus, I write to you with the reminder that I am here for you.  

I know our prayers will continue to be directed to those around the world who are experiencing illness, as well as those who are caring for them. We will hold those who are anxious in our hearts, as well as the many millions worldwide who have been isolated from others in quarantine for extended periods of time. Our hearts are broken as we ask for comfort for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.

Please reach out if you need me. Congregation Beth Ahabah is here for you! We are working and thinking critically about serving you in this unprecedented and uncertain time.  

Take care of yourself. Be educated about how you can stay healthy physically, but also try not to allow the uncertainty and anxiousness in the air to weigh you down. 

If you are experiencing financial hardships, please reach out to me. I have a small fund for congregants under financial distress as well as some gift cards. 

Help Others. Judaism is largely about creating community, and that is very difficult to do when people are wary of touching and gathering. As our whole world faces this same challenge Keep an eye out on friends, neighbors and strangers alike. Let us have the strength to be understanding and kind in this time of great tumult.
For those that want to do something to help, please know that we are working with the community to help those affected by both the virus and secondary issues including loneliness, hunger, limitation of needed services, and even simply the ability to pick up medication and necessities for those in high risk categories. The food pantry at Beth Shalom is in need of donations. There is a need for people willing to run small errands and go shopping for those who are unable to do so. We will also be setting up a schedule to call all of the elderly members of the congregation just to check in and say hello.  If you are willing and able to help in these areas, please let us know of your availability and/or click one on the links below.
If you would like to make a contribution to support those in need and the effort to help them, the Community has set up an emergency fund at the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond which can be reached by clicking one of the following links:

Shabbat Services. We will continue to make services available on our YouTube Channel which you can reach by clicking HERE. Please make sure to click SUBSCRIBE to receive updates. All services during this time will be virtual and begin at 6:15pm on Fridays.
We are also working to increase the number of opportunities to connect and do distance learning. Please check your e-news for details.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav teaches us that the world is a very narrow bridge and the most important thing is not to be afraid. The wisdom behind this teaching is that despite our thinking that we are in total control of our world, we really are not. Our lives are very fragile, and sometimes we get reminders of this. Rabbi Nachman did not compare the world to a field on which we might rest, but to a bridge, the symbol of passage, of journeying. And the secret is not to find a safe place, but to navigate the narrow crossing and remain unafraid.
May our world be blessed with healing - with refuah shleimah - at this time, and always!
Shabbat Shalom! Wishing you a Sabbath filled with peace and love, 
Rabbi Nagel 

A Prayer of Hope by Rabbi Naomi Levy
We are frightened, God, Worried for our loved ones, worried for our world.
Helpless and confused, we turn to You Seeking comfort, faith and hope.
Teach us God, to turn our panic into patience,
And our fear into acts of kindness and support.
Our strong must watch out for our weak,
Our young must take care of our old.
Help each one of us to do our part to halt the spread of this virus
Send strength and courage to the doctors and nurses
In the frontlines of this battle,
Fortify them with the full force of their healing powers.
Send wisdom and insight to the scientists
Working day and night across the world to discover healing treatments.
Bless their efforts, God. Fill our leaders with the wisdom and the courage
To choose wisely and act quickly. Help us, God, to see that we are one world, one people
Who will rise above this pandemic together.
Send us health God, Watch over us, Grace us with Your love,
Bless us with Your healing light. Hear us God, Heal us God, Amen

Congregational Message Regarding COVID-19

03/12/2020 05:00:41 PM


Rabbi Scott Nagel

Thurs. March 12, 2020 • 5:00pm

Dear Congregation Beth Ahabah Family,
There is consensus around one fact regarding COVID-19: we are in an evolving situation. All experts now encourage social distancing – avoiding large group gatherings and situations where there is risk of spreading the virus. There is also consensus that our actions in the next two to three weeks will be key in limiting the spread of the virus. As such, we are monitoring the needs of our community daily and making decisions for the health and safety of the congregation and community as needed.
Jewish tradition teaches Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, that the community of Israel is responsible for one another. By extension, as citizens of the larger world, we are responsible for our neighbors and fellow citizens as well.
Congregation Beth Ahabah will do our part in the mitigation of this virus, which means modifying some of our routines, and remaining ready to make further modifications. We are all responsible for one another.  
Consistent with this teaching, below is information regarding changes to our programming and routines effective immediately. This email addresses programming through the next 7 days only. Additional communications will be sent next week regarding future programming as the situation evolves. We are grateful for our culture of profound connections and are saddened that we cannot nurture those connections in person as we begin to limit physical interactions and implement temporary interruptions of our programming.
We are continuing our Shabbat evening, bnei mitzvah services, and life cycle events. We will ask all individuals who attend services to follow precautions as described below. For those who choose not to attend services in person, we are exploring digital options and have set up a YouTube channel entitled “Congregation Beth Ahabah, Richmond, VA” and hope to be able to livestream services on that platform as soon as tomorrow night. When streaming, services will be available at this link:
For Shabbat evening services tomorrow, please arrive just before the 6:15pm start time to limit assembling as a large group. Our new practice is to replace handshakes and hugs with warm smiles and a joyous “Shabbat Shalom.” We ask that families and individuals sit at least 2 seats apart (except those people with whom you share a residence) in the sanctuary. Our sanctuary is large enough that all can have their own space.
Community Practice:

  • The most important thing that each of us can do to protect each other and the community is to stay home if we show any sign or symptoms of the virus, or if we have been in contact with someone who was or may have been exposed to COVID-19. If you are sick, please stay home. If someone in your household is sick, please stay home.  Please do call and let us know how you are doing.
  • Replace physical greetings with smiles and kind words.
  • Engage in frequent handwashing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Additional hand sanitizing stations will be set up around the synagogue.
  • Surfaces and frequently touched objects will be cleaned and sanitized regularly.

Suspended programming in the coming week includes:

  • No community oneg preceding and/or following services at Friday evening Shabbat and Saturday morning services. No food or beverages will be available including challah, grape juice, and wine except ceremonially on the bimah.
  • No food will be served at the congregation, including the Shabbat Dinner tomorrow, Friday, March 13 celebrating the Women of Beth Ahabah. (This dinner will be rescheduled to a future date.)
  • Torah Study on Thursday, March 19 will not meet in person. Information regarding digital/remote participation, allowing for interactive learning, will be provided soon.
  • Tot Shabbat scheduled for this Saturday, March 14 is cancelled.
  • Talmud Lunch and Learn scheduled for Saturday, March 14 will not meet in person. Information regarding digital/remote participation, allowing for interactive learning, will be provided soon.
  • Religious School and our Family Gesher program for Sunday March 15 is cancelled.
  • The Camp Harlam Open House on Sunday, March 15 is cancelled.
  • Beit Midrash for both adults and teens on Monday, March 16 is cancelled.

Changing from in-person to virtual participation in the coming week:

  • All group and committee meetings will not be conducted in person. Each meeting will decide whether to meet virtually, to reschedule, or to cancel. Please look for separate communications regarding these gatherings.
  • Individual Meetings with Staff and Clergy will be changed to virtual meetings if possible. Some meetings will still need to happen in person. Individuals with appointments will be contacted on an individual basis if a change is necessary.   

Congregation Beth Ahabah has also modified internal plans and practices to make sure our community is protected during this stressful time.  Please know that we are always available if you would like to talk about the current situation, any fears or anxiety you might be experiencing, or concerns you have about future events.  Please know that we are responding with an overabundance of caution to keep our community healthy and to mitigate the spread of infection.
Regarding events beyond March 19, information will be provided as the situation continues to evolve. We support you in your decisions regarding how you choose to engage with our community at this time and we appreciate your flexibility and understanding as we work through this together.
We look forward to resuming our many in-person activities as quickly as possible.
B’shalom (In Peace),
Rabbi Scott Nagel
The Sophia and Nathan Gumenick Senior Rabbi
Cantor Sarah Beck-Berman
Cantor and B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator
Heather Dinkin
Director of Congregational Operations
James Hensley
Facilities Manager

Tue, April 20 2021 8 Iyyar 5781