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Congregational Updates Regarding COVID-19

03/20/2020 01:45:36 PM


Please check back here for updates on events & programming as well as links and information about supporting one another during this time.

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.


Links to the emergency fund at the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond:

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

Sun, March 29 2020 4 Nisan 5780