TBE is closed indefinitely: COVID-19, Congregational Announcement – March 12, 2020

Dear Friends,

One of the fundamental values of Judaism is pikuach nefesh – literally, saving a life. We often refer to this colloquially as “life (or health) comes first.” Multiple verses in the Torah and in the Talmud place the care and preservation of human life above any other commandment. Practically, this means that Jewish communal and individual decision-making must prioritize health considerations above all others.

We have been closely following the news about the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and we have been in serious, active, and ongoing conversations around communal policies, procedures, and protocols as the pandemic grows. We unanimously consider the situation to be extremely serious. As of yesterday (March 11) at 5:50pm, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared the following:
“1,135 confirmed cases and 32 deaths have been reported in the United States. The mortality rate of victims is now calculated to approximately 3.4%, though individuals who have health vulnerabilities are significantly more at risk. The elderly, infirm, or very young should be observed carefully when symptoms of COVID-19 are witnessed within a community. As with most respiratory illnesses, coughing and sneezing have been reported to be factored in spreading the virus.”

Given recent developments throughout Virginia, in accord with the recommendations to not hold or promote gatherings of at-risk individuals, and out of an abundance of caution, we are making the difficult decision to cancel all in-person congregational programs indefinitely. This includes Friday night services, Saturday morning services, TBE School, Torah Study, and all other classes and groups that meet at the synagogue, as well as those sponsored or authorized by the congregation that meet elsewhere.
The synagogue building is closed for all non-essential meetings and business activities, and as soon as and as much as possible, Synagogue Manager Jill Hyman and Rabbi David will be working remotely. If you need to reach Jill, you can send her an Email at office@tbewilliamsburg.org, or call the synagogue office at 757-220-1205 and leave a voicemail – Jill will check voicemail frequently. If you need to reach Rabbi David, you can send him an Email at rabbidavidkatz@gmail.com, or call him on his mobile phone, 757-634-6407. In the coming days, we will be working on ways to hold services and meetings, and possibly classes, remotely, using online technologies. Rabbi David is available to meet with you by phone or by Skype or FaceTime, but will be limiting in-person visits to urgent emergencies. We will continue to communicate regularly with all of you as this situation unfolds, and we will promptly let you know as soon as we deem it safe and reasonable to return to regular activities.

We want to do our best to offer assistance to those who most need it – at-risk folks who don’t want to venture out to do shopping or medical appointments, or who need help with basic tasks. We will do our best to reach out to you in the coming days, but if you are someone who needs help, or if you are aware of someone who does, please let us know. If you are someone who is not at-risk, and you’re willing and able to help those who are, please also reach out to us.

We regret any inconvenience these decisions may cause – please know that they have not been made lightly. We are passionate about our mission to help members of our community deepen their relationships with Judaism and each other. Yet we are also mindful that, according our tradition, saving lives and preserving health are among our highest values. We have a Jewish obligation to do everything in our power to keep our community safe and healthy.

At the moment, we are hopeful that synagogue activities will be able to resume
as normal sometime in the near future. However, we are continuing to monitor the situation and will remain in close contact with relevant local and national government agencies and partner organizations to determine appropriate actions and next steps. We promise to communicate with you as decisions are made.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to remain informed with up-to-date information regarding this issue. As Jews, we believe that good education is one of the best tools we have to remain calm and safe: For all pertinent and updated information, including travel advisories, please visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you need us, or have any questions. Once again, if you need to reach Rabbi David, Jill Hyman, or a member of the Board, please send an Email, or leave a voicemail at the synagogue office.

We’d like to point out that this is a rapidly changing, fairly unprecedented situation, and one for which there is no blueprint. We are doing, and will continue to do, the very best we can to manage and lead the vibrant, meaningful, and caring Jewish community that is so important to all of us. We appreciate your patience, your understanding, and your cooperation as we navigate this difficult and complex crisis. We send everyone our best, and wish you all good health.

B’shalom – with peace,
Michael Schulman, President
TBE’s Board of Directors
Rabbi David Katz
Jill Hyman, Synagogue Manager