Rabbi’s Review – June 2020

Strong as Ever

Rabbi Cassi Kail


As my first year at Temple Beth El comes to a close, I find myself reflecting about the moments of joy, inspiration, and and connection that we have shared. I am grateful for the way you have so graciously welcomed me into the temple family and into your lives.

The past few months, in particular, have been full of surprises. There was no pandemic class in seminary. We did not study how to serve communities on ZOOM, or how to offer pastoral care while physical distancing. I am proud of the way our staff, lay leaders, and members have come together to offer a variety of engagement opportunities. I am also keenly aware that technology has its limitations. Sometimes ZOOM connects us in profound ways. Other times, it feels cumbersome and exhausting. The technology is not easily accessible to everyone.

The cantor and I decided to scale back a few of our programs so that we could spend that time on the phone with community members. We may not be at the temple physically, and we may not have the opportunity to see you in person, but we are here for you. Please do not hesitate to email me or call me on my cell phone, if you want to study a text, share a suggestion, or if you simply want to talk.

We are all looking forward to the day on which we can be together in person once more. We long for a warm embrace, community meals, and face to face conversations. We will get there.

Temple leadership is closely following CDC reports, and local medical recommendations as we consider how and under what circumstances we will be able to reopen. The most important value in Judaism is pekuach nefesh, saving a life. The Talmud teaches that whoever saves one life saves the world entire. The temple’s commitment to the well-being of the community informs our decision to hold off on any in-person programming for the time being. Once it is safe to do so, we will be deliberate about what programs we can offer in-person, the precautions we must have in place, and how to integrate those who join in person and online.

In its 98-year-long history, Temple Beth El has been through challenging times before. The community has succeeded because of strong relationships, leadership, and ingenuity. Let us continue to work hard to make the right decisions for our community, to find creative ways to engage with Jewish traditions, and to build relationships by reaching out to one another. It may not be the end of the year any of us expected, but these past few months have taught me just how strong we are.