On producing lemonade out of lemons

A virtual community

Dear Congregants,

As I started to write this, amidst the Covid 19 crisis that has literally affected all of us, I thought it might be nice to take a break from the relentless news cycle, and  think about some of the positive effects that I have heard about, and also personally experienced.

We have all heard countless stories that have shown how the world has continued to be able to produce “lemonade” out of the Covid 19 “lemons”, and I would like to talk about a couple of those stories that are close to home.

In a very short time Zoom, as a communication tool, has gone from relative obscurity to become about as ubiquitous as the can opener. (I should also add that for the Luddites among us, CBJ is running Zoom workshops – just contact the office if you want more details).

With a lot of flexibility, resilience and resourcefulness our clergy and staff, in under a week, effectively transitioned from a physically based community to a virtual community – with some benefits that could not have been foreseen.

  • Attendance at our online Shabbat services in some weeks has exceeded attendance that we enjoyed in the on-site services prior to the crisis.
  • Families distributed across the country have joined together in attending our online services, allowing for an altogether new family experience in attending shul.
  • We have seen increased attendance at online Shiva Minyans, and in one case in excess of 100 attendees, joining together from the Bay Area, the U.S. and internationally, to mourn and remember a loved one.

Religious school reconfigured the curriculum and is continuing to reach out and interact with our students. Preschool is also holding weekly activities.

But this virtual community also extends beyond services and education – I have participated in several online chavurah socials, where, armed with a glass of wine, and a laptop or tablet, we have been able to check in on each other, and socialize beyond the bounds of our own houses.

For us, this has also meant get togethers with siblings, in the UK, on the East coast and Israel. We could have held these get togethers way before the arrival of Covid 19, but somehow, we never got around to it.

A virtual community, however, still needs to be complemented by individual reach outs and assistance. Over the past two months, a group of volunteers, including most members of the board, have reached out and collectively made over 900 contacts with members of the community, in some cases just checking in and chatting, and in other cases offering help with errands, or food.  We hope to continue this mitzvah moving forward but would also invite anyone who wants a bit of help, or just to chat, to reach out to the staff or the clergy.  Additionally, if you want to be part of the volunteer team that is doing the reach outs then let me know at president@bethjacobrwc.org.

I hope that you all continue to thrive in this difficult environment, and I look forward to the opportunity for us all to gather together again, under the CBJ roof.


Steve Dines, President

Steven Dines