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Shalom from Rabbi Kula
April 1, 2020 - 7 Nissan, 5780
The weekly Torah portion is Tzav from the book of Leviticus. This is the Special Shabbat that precedes Passover and is called Shabbat Hagadol-The Great Sabbath.
Shalom, Beth Shalom and Friends!
Here comes the understatement of the season: this Passover will be different. It begs the question: how do we welcome our friends and neighbors at our Seders during quarantine? We are physically separated. We are calling each other and maintaining good connections. And for Passover Amber and I will facilitate virtual Seders.
Though we cannot physically sample each other’s recipes for charoset (paste made from fruit, wine and nuts to represent the mortar for Egyptian bricks) or maror (bitter herbs of slavery), we have a rare opportunity to experience, virtually and literally, a modified assortment of Seder symbols. We will taste the salt water, symbolic tears of our ancestors’ slavery, mingled with our own. We will commemorate the Biblical plagues wrought on ancient slave-holders, while acutely feeling the current plagues of disease, over-worked medical teams, widespread financial distress, mass quarantine, lost opportunities, and missed connections. In the final Biblical plague, the Death of the first-born throughout Egypt, the Angel of Death passed over the Israelites’ houses. In following our government edicts mandating us to shelter in place, we pray that the coronavirus will pass over our dwellings, sparing our children. We pray that those sickened by the virus, and those on the front lines of fighting it and maintaining our food and supply chains will be strengthened, repelling illness.
Let me articulate our hopes this week as we approach Passover. We yearn for freedom from this virus: freedom to socialize, conduct business, go to school, make music, and play sports. We pray that when this plague passes over our society, we rebuild an even better, more generous world, in the image of God: a world with enough food, opportunities for all.
Shalom U’veracha-Peace and Blessings.
Rabbi Mark H. Kula, Congregation Beth Shalom
We wish we could be together in person for our annual Community Passover Seder this year. While we acknowledge the emotions we may feel about everything that's changed in the last few weeks, we can also turn toward the things that remain familiar about Passover: our favorite seder plate, the tastes of matzah, charoset, and bitter herbs, singing "Dayenu" and enjoying a festive meal. We can still see each other's faces, hear each other's voices, and be together on Zoom to celebrate the holiday, with just the true essence of each of us arriving through the internet. As much as we need physical touch, perhaps this is a way for us to connect to one another and to the divine on an even deeper spiritual level - a "Soul Seder," if you will...
Please join us for our online community seder on April 9th at 5:30pm. Rabbi Kula and I are working on a custom downloadable haggadah that we will send next week for everyone to follow along. We'll go through everything in the seder up to the meal, and provide you with the resources to finish the seder at home after dinner.
We are offering free matzah delivery! If you would like a box, please reply to this email and we will coordinate. We have about a dozen boxes to offer on a first come, first served basis.
Shalom Kids Online is going strong; our students and parents have expressed positive experiences connecting this way. The Bar and Bat Mitzvah students are keeping up with their individual studies with me on Zoom as well. Our kids are so resilient and adaptable - truly living up to their Jewish identities - and are well on their way to becoming the next leaders of our community.
Come find some comfort in community and our traditions. We look forward to sharing Passover together.
Kol tuv - all the best,
Important Update: Our COVID-19 Plans
March 13, 2020
Dear Congregation Beth Shalom Community:
The Board of Directors, Rabbi Mark Kula and Beth Shalom staff have been monitoring the many actions taken by multiple companies, organizations and institutions to limit and combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Beth Shalom believes that it has a responsibility to proactively safeguard the health and security of the Congregation and the larger community while continuing to serve the spiritual, cultural, and religious needs of our affiliates and friends. We understand that taking steps now to help contain the virus means less social interaction in groups, but it does not lessen the need for people in our community to connect and to be supported.
As a result, the staff and leadership of Beth Shalom have decided to take the following steps, effective immediately:
- All services and Torah Study will be conducted as currently scheduled on the temple website exclusively via Zoom, an online video and audio conferencing service. There will be no in-person services until further notice. Our next scheduled Shabbat service is Friday, March 27; please expect an email to be distributed one week in advance with instructions on how to participate via Zoom. For Torah Study, five or fewer people may gather at the temple to “host” the Zoom session, but other participants should join via Zoom (the Torah Study group will coordinate this).
- The annual Community Seder, scheduled for April 9, is cancelled. The leadership encourages affiliates to plan smaller seders with friends and family and to use our community directory to invite others as they deem appropriate. To facilitate this, Rabbi Mark will offer an online seder class (creatively titled “How to Host a Seder”), the details of which will be announced soon. Additionally, on April 9 at 5:30pm Rabbi Mark will conduct a short seder service via Zoom for 30 minutes which will cover the key prayers and rituals, and then people can continue with their seders at home. If you have already paid for the community seder, we will reach out to you to coordinate a refund.
- Shalom Kids will follow the lead of the Bozeman public school district, which is in-line with the Union of Reform Judaism’s (URJ) recommendations. Shalom Kids will continue to meet as scheduled until such time as attendance at the public schools is modified because of the COVID-19 situation. If the public schools close, so will Shalom Kids. If you are a tutor for Shalom Kids and are not comfortable continuing tutoring for any reason, please let Amber Ikeman know. Also, as a reminder, any adults or children who are sick should remain at home.
- Amber Ikeman will continue to meet with the B’nei Mitzvah students one-on-one in-person as scheduled as long as neither party is ill. Amber is also happy to facilitate these sessions over Zoom.
- Rabbi Kula will be in Bozeman March 24-29th to meet with affiliates and others. He and Amber will be reaching out to many in our community over the coming days. His schedule for April will be updated soon.
- If you know of any affiliate, friend, or family in need because of stress, illness or other reasons, please contact Amber Ikeman so that we can assist them as a community. Volunteers may be able to coordinate meals and/or grocery shopping depending upon the situation. And if you are healthy and willing to lend a hand to others during this time, please let Amber know.
- Beth Shalom staff have been encouraged to work from home except when classes are scheduled. Lisa and Amber are available via email or phone at 406.556.0528.
The leadership of Congregation Beth Shalom greatly appreciates your cooperation and assistance. Resilience, ingenuity, determination, and community are hallmarks of our people, and we trust we will all rely on those strengths to carry us through this difficult time. We will continue to proactively monitor the situation, and communicate any changes to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, please take care of yourself and your families.
Sara E. Schwerin
President of the Board of Directors
Congregation Beth Shalom
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Please join us on April 9 at 5:30pm for a seder via Zoom. We will go through the key prayers and rituals of the seder, and invite you to continue at home with dinner and the seder's conclusion. Please email Amber in advance to receive the link and password.
Letter from Rabbi Kula
Mazel Tov on uniting as Rabbi and community.
I am honored and delighted to join the Congregation Beth Shalom family and Bozeman community. These are exciting and challenging times. Let us take care of ourselves and others, nurture our relationships, and tap into profound Jewish wisdom. We will then surely thrive and be blessed.
L’heetraot- I look forward to seeing you soon!
Rabbi Mark H. Kula
Learn more about Rabbi Kula here.
Please see calendar for full list.
Congregation Beth Shalom is a place where affiliates of all ages come together to be a learning and spiritual community who joyfully pray together and celebrate Jewish history and tradition. We cultivate in our affiliates a lifelong connection to Judaism through the lens of the Reform and Renewal movements.