Reopening Together: A Letter from our Leadership
Dear Emanu-El Community,
With your tremendous support and the dedication of our leadership and staff, Congregation Emanu-El continues to face the challenges of the pandemic with strength and resilience. We mourn the many lives lost to the pandemic, and we reaffirm our commitment to supporting the Bay Area Jewish community as we have since 1850.
As we begin to see some glimmers of hope, we want to take this opportunity to update you on the status of our Emanu-El community.
A Year of Innovation at Congregation Emanu-El
As our city sheltered in place, Emanu-El continued to carry out our mission to serve the needs of our members and the broader community. Some highlights of the past year include:
We convened an advisory committee of experts to help guide our congregational policies. This volunteer committee includes doctors, public health leaders, as well as business leaders.
While most in-person events paused, Emanu-El never closed for the Pandemic and instead immediately shifted our community to online platforms. Worship, youth & adult education, counseling with clergy and so much more all continued online. We’ve been very busy!
We met the needs of our youngest members by continuing to operate our preschool, primarily outdoors, with a robust set of protocols in place. We recently opened an additional cohort and are currently enrolling students for next fall.
As health regulations permitted, we returned to limited in-person events such as small b’nei mitzvah services in our courtyard, outdoor weddings and funerals, and small group outdoor gatherings among members.
Emanu-El Next, our historic capital campaign, has continued with the tremendous generosity of our community, ensuring a strong future.
We supported our public health leaders and resisted the temptation to push the rules. Doing so helped us be safer and made Emanu-El a role model for religious institutions. San Francisco has one of the lowest Covid-19 mortality rates of large cities in the world and we are proud of our city and region, despite the great hardship of the past year.
The Next Chapter
We pray that we are nearing a true turning point and that vaccinations will help us move toward gathering again in our historic synagogue on Lake Street and in-person around the Bay. The safety of our community remains a foundational value, and we are pleased to share the following updates with you:
Indoor pastoral visits with clergy have resumed when all parties are vaccinated.
We are exploring ways to bring together small groups, indoors, of verified fully vaccinated congregants.
While we are not yet permitted by county and state regulations to livestream our service from the sanctuary (primarily due to the ban on indoor singing), we anticipate that we will be able to do so soon when all the clergy leading has been fully vaccinated and public health policy has been updated.
We are exploring ways to bring congregants back inside the sanctuary for Shabbat services, b’nei mitzvot, weddings and funerals. We won’t do this until we feel certain that we can do this safely, but we are committed to doing so as soon as possible. Realistically, we don’t anticipate in-person regular Shabbat service until the summer at the earliest. We will continue to offer outdoor life-cycle events as regulations permit.
We are exploring new ways to conduct learning and engagement for all ages that combines what we’ve learned with distance and in-person technology.
When the time comes to gather in person, our community should feel assured and proud that every step of the way we’ve been guided by the Jewish value of Pikuach Nefesh, the idea that preserving lives is always the most important thing to do. Coming back together in person will take time, planning and flexibility. That’s why we’ve convened working groups of staff and experts to execute every step of this process. Most new programs will start small, in “beta test” even when regulations allow larger gatherings.
What about High Holy Days?
We are very hopeful that, in some way, we will be able to gather for the High Holy Days. We also know that this won’t be a viable option for everyone, and we will continue to offer a streaming option regardless of the status of COVID-19. While it’s too early to know what will be safe for the Fall, clergy and staff are already meeting regularly to sketch out different scenarios. If it is safe to bring our members inside, it will be a top priority to make this possible for every member who wishes to do so.
One truth that the enormous pain of the past year highlights is that we need one another. We need a strong and resilient community to celebrate times of joy and to endure times of sorrow. As leaders of Congregation Emanu-El we extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone in our community. Your membership and continued engagement with one another help us thrive in the face of challenges. We are so proud to be stewards of our sacred community in this generation, and we are hopeful about a bright future for our congregation.
This notice is the first of planned correspondence. We will keep you posted as matters progress. And you can check our webpage for updates by clicking here. We can’t wait to see you in person.
Beth Singer, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Senior Rabbi
Jonathan Singer, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Senior Rabbi
David Goldman, Executive Director
Rabbi Jason Rodich, Clergy Liaison to COVID Advisory Task Force
Marsha Attie, Cantor
Ryan Bauer, Senior Associate Rabbi
Roslyn Barak, Senior Cantor Emerita
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Emanu-El Scholar
Arik Luck, Ben and A. Jess Shenson Cantor
Sydney B. Mintz, Senior Associate Rabbi
Sarah Joselow Parris, Rabbi
Stephen Pearce, PhD, Sr. Taube Emanu-El Scholar and Rabbi Emeritus
Randi Fields, Senior Director of Membership and Engagement Operation
Ariana Estoque, Director of Member Experience
Heidi Sanders, Engagement Manager
Leah Shapiro, Engagement Manager
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