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  • Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt's Rosh Hashanah Sermon

    This document contains Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt's Rosh Hashanah 2020 sermon.
  • “No Choice But To Be Brave”

    Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson's Passover Message
  • Candle Lighting - Chanukah 2020

    Over 100 Members of Congregation Emanu-El gather on Zoom for a Shabbat Chanukah Candle lighting.
  • Covid and Jewish Engagement Research - High Holidays 2020 Report

    Among the many ways that the pandemic profoundly changed Jewish engagement, the High Holidays of 2020 stands out as a particularly fascinating case study. It was a kind of controlled experiment; essentially no one was able to celebrate or observe the holidays in the ways they were used to, so everyone was doing something somewhat different than usual. Institutions of all kinds innovated to adapt to the restrictions, and new ways of engaging emerged and spread more broadly than could have been previously imagined. In an effort to understand the ways in which people’s engagement with the High Holidays changed during this past year, and what it might reveal about Jewish engagement more broadly, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Jim Joseph Foundation and Aviv Foundation funded research through the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund (JCRIF) to illuminate new patterns of participation and motivations. In the winter of 2020-2021, Benenson Strategy Group surveyed 1,414 American Jews nationwide about their experiences of the High Holidays and the ways that those experiences compared to previous years. The research explored not only what people did in 2020, but also compared it to what they had been doing before and explored what they might do in the future. The results provide important insights that have meaningful design implications not only for the upcoming High Holidays, but also for engagement efforts much more broadly. A major insight is the difference in behavior and attitudes between “Regular High Holy Day Observers” (those who typically observe both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) and “Infrequent High Holy Day Observers” (those who participate sporadically or only in one of the holidays). Remarkably, approximately half of the Infrequent Observers participated in High Holy Days during the pandemic, when it would have been very easy to opt out (see slide 15). Their robust participation leads us to explore both their motivations for participating and how their participation this year may impact their future decisions and behavior as well. The motivations of Regular and Infrequent Observers were distinct. While Regular Observers largely report that they were trying to get as close as possible to normal, Infrequent Observers emphasized that they engaged because it was “easy and straightforward” (new modalities, lower barriers to entry [real and perceived, such as social anxiety, complexity of bringing non-Jewish partner, lack of Jewish confidence, managing young kids, etc.]), and because of social motivators, such as recommendations from friends/family, and wanting to “connect with other people like me” (see slide 19). Infrequent Observers responded to a wider and more diverse marketplace of choices during this year, which is an important lesson for future design. In addition to the variety of options, this group now feels more permission to “do Jewish” differently than they may have assumed before. In addition, Infrequent Observers say that their positive experiences have made them interested in further participation, motivated to share those opportunities with their own friends and family, curious to try new Jewish activities, and try (or consider) new ways to observe the Jewish holidays in the future (see slides 24 and 27). These insights into the behaviors of Infrequent Observers can help create a positive and expanding feedback loop that should pique the interest of those who design such Jewish experiences and seek to engage these populations. Finally, over 50% of respondents reported that the experience of the pandemic has made them think differently about what being Jewish means, with parents with children under 18 and Infrequent Observers who did participate this year markedly higher than this average. The controlled experiment of High Holidays during the pandemic was a unique opportunity to conduct this research that illuminated themes which are useful to consider beyond the pandemic.
  • Elijah Visits Zoom Seder

    Friends and family celebrated Passover virtually and when we opened the door for Elijah, he appeared on Zoom! Image descriptions: Image 1: a black box with the word “Elijah” in the center in white lettering appears as a member on a zoom call with 11 total participants. Image 2: a PDF of page 82 of a 188 page Haggadah where the door is opened for Elijah. The page contains prayers in English. Celebrating Passover, my favorite holiday, over zoom was really hard and now that we’ve missed 2 in person seders, I’ll appreciate future in person celebrations of Jewish holidays even more.
  • Family Shabbat Candle Lighting

    After my father passed away in December, my mom, sisters and our families began to light the Shabbat candles together on Zoom every Friday evening. This is a weekly tradition that began during Covid, and is a lovely way for us to connect with each other every week to start Shabbat. We also share the challah that we have baked (if we have baked that week). Since I have been saying Kaddish for my dad since December, I have joined a daily minyan that my mom and sisters and some nieces and nephews have also joined. This online community has become a nice daily ritual to remember my dad. My mom and sister's family live in Minneapolis, where I grew up. I live in San Francisco, and the rest of the family is in Monterey, CA, Boulder, CO, Madison, WI and Washington, DC. The daily minyan and the candle lighting are a nice way for us to connect and see each other every day and every week.
  • How to Re-Enter Life After a Plague: Lessons From the Ancient Priests

    Sermon by Rabbi Angela W. Buchdahl of Central Synagogue. Delivered April 16, 2021.
  • True Colors: AJAS Virtual Choir

    The Association of Jewish Aging Services Virtual Choir sings "True Colors" while pictures taken of residents and staff during the Covid-19 pandemic are shown.
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water: AJAS Virtual Choir

    The Association of Jewish Aging Services Virtual Choir sings "Bridge Over Troubled Water" while pictures taken of residents and staff during the Covid-19 pandemic are shown.
  • Rabbi Sarah Fort — Interview with the Houston Jewish History Archive

    Dr. Joshua Furman interviewing Rabbi Sarah Fort of Houston’s Congregation Beth Yeshurun, which touches on the clergy experience during the pandemic.
  • WEBINAR Community Counter Vaccine Hesitancy Panel: With Dr Noar Bar Zeev

    Community Counter hosted Web Panel, Navigating Vaccine Hesitancy in the Jewish Community A Panel Discussion with The Honorable Aliza Bloch, Mayor of Bet Shemesh (Israel) Dr Naor Bar Zeev, Associate Professor in the Department of Global Disease, Epidemiology and Control at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Baltimore) Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiologist, Mt. Sinai South Nassau (New York) and Rabbi at Young Israel of Woodmer (New York) Dr. Daniel Grove, Assistant Director for Critical Care at Medstar Union Memorial Hospital (Baltimore) Rabbi Dr. Zev Eleff, Chief Academic Officer, Hebrew Theological College (Skokie) and Associate Professor of Jewish History, Touro College and University System Mark Trencher, founder of Nishma Research (New York) Shoshana Bernstein, Director of Communications, Covid Plasma Initiative, and President, SB Writing and Communications (Monsey, New York). Discussion is centered around the history, implications and best practices for addressing vaccine hesitancy in the Jewish community.
  • Community

    This heartfelt video was created by Community Counter, a volunteer organization created to help the Orthodox Jewish Community stay safe throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. This short video also links to the full video which features over 20 of our Chicago neighbors and friends showing our community's support for wearing masks and helping to save lives every day.
  • Keep It Up

    A poster made by Community Counter encouraging people to continue to wear masks.
  • Beth El Hebrew Congregation COVID-19 Response

    These items include safety protocols for Beth El Hebrew's Outdoor Jewish learning and living program that took place from September 13-November 22 and that picked up again April 11-May 23. Also attached is their letter announcing their plans for RS for 2021, as well as photos from Confirmation and Consecration.
  • Coming back together by sitting apart

    These are pictures of the sanctuary at Tikvat Israel in Rockville, MD, with seats marked off to ensure social distancing as we prepare to return. After 13 months, Tikvat Israel Congregation in Rockville returned for our first indoor, in-person service on Shabbat Acharei Mot/Kedoshim (April 24, 2021). The definition of “warm and welcoming” looks very different now, as we limit our numbers, ensure everyone maintains 6’ physical distancing and all wear masks, even when leading. As I rolled the Torah from Tetzaveh (the last portion we read) to Acharei Mot/Kedoshim (our reading this week), my eyes filled with tears of a mixture of awe, joy, anticipation and sadness. Something profound that we are returning this week, when we read the double parasha whose title translates to “after death” “holiness.” Yes, there is.
  • Prepared for Rosh Hashanah 5781

    To prepare for virtual Rosh Hashanah morning services, I decorated my desk with Jewish art, objects, and a picture of my family in order to foster the feeling of being in a sacred space. Image description: A white desk in front of a window that looks out onto a sunny cul-de-sac. Propped against the windowsill on the desk from left to right is a small painting of a hamsa, a gay pride-decorated golem doll, an art print with the modah/eh ani prayer, a picture of five smiling people, a print with a Jewish man and an Arab man holding a banner that says "God is Love" in rainbow print, a black print with white lettering that says "Everyday a person must renew themselves" in Hebrew over and over again, and a small pink wooden tulip. In front of these objects on the desk, there is a closed laptop with a small pomegranate sculpture to the left and a URJ Chumash to the right.
  • Brandeis Back to School Proposal

    Jewish Day School on Long Island opening plan for school Fall 2020 - before the governor's final school opening guidelines were released.
  • Brandeis Back to School Proposal

    Jewish Day School on Long Island opening plan for school Fall 2020 - before the governor's final school opening guidelines were released.
  • Brandeis Back to School Proposal

    Jewish Day School on Long Island opening plan for school Fall 2020 - before the governor's final school opening guidelines were released.
  • Brandeis Back to School Proposal

    Jewish Day School on Long Island opening plan for school Fall 2020 - before the governor's final school opening guidelines were released.