An Important Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 3.16.20

Dear Friends,

A few check-in items…  Here’s what you’ll find in this letter:

  1. Coronavirus hygiene and social separation reminder

  2. Update on Shabbat and other services, and sayingkaddish

  3. Calling all members and other volunteer opportunities

  4. Online services, programming, classes, etc.


First of all, social distancing and basic hygiene precautions are the best ways to protect against Coronavirus.

  • Please do not go out if you don’t have to, particularly if you are in a high-risk group (over 50 or otherwise health compromised).

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap, lathering for at least 20 seconds.

  • Disinfect commonly touched surfaces.

  • If you must go out, avoid getting close to people and touching things that others have touched.  Wash your hands as soon as you get home.

  • Follow other guidelines from reputable sources like the CDC or the WHO.

  • Do not trust random online medical advice or reporting on Coronavirus – there is much misinformation on Facebook and other social media sites. Trust only known and reputable sources.


Second, an update on Shabbat services: I don’t intend to convene another minyan as long as we are advised to socially distance ourselves.  As of right now, I am intending to broadcast some kind of Shabbat service and Torah study session from the sanctuary on Shabbat morning at 10:00 am.  You will receive a link to be able to access that if you wish.  The synagogue doors will be locked.  Please do not come.

Daily services are suspended for now, except for people needing to say kaddish.  If you do need to say kaddish, you have one of three options:

  1. This period of social distancing qualifies assh’at had’chak –a time of urgent need – and so I am temporarily allowing the convening of a “virtual minyan.”  If you let us know that you need to or would like to say kaddish, we will convene an online minyan and we will answer amen and y’hei sh’mei rabbah to you.

  1. Having said that, the halachic ground for this is somewhat shaky, so if you are not comfortable with it, you have two other options.  You may recite thePrayer in Place of Mourner’s Kaddish (When a Minyan is not Present)from the new Conservative Movement siddur, Lev Shalem for Shabbat and Festivals – email me and I will email you back a copy of it) or:

  1. You may study some Torah in honor of the deceased person you are saying kaddish for, in lieu of sayingkaddish. You may accomplish this through learning on your own (reading the weekly parasha, for example) or attending an online Torah study session (see below).


Third, we are trying to spearhead an initiative to reach all EMJC members by phone to check in on them and ask them some basic questions about how they are faring.  If you are able to help with this, please let me know.  WE ARE PARTICULARLY LOOKING FOR A FEW VOLUNTEERS TO ORGANIZE THE PHONE TREE.  AS YET, NO ONE HAS STEPPED UP TO TAKE THAT IMPORTANT ROLE.  Please consider helping on that front.

Also, we are soliciting volunteers to help those who are unable to leave their homes with shopping, essential errands, etc.  We are also looking for tech-savvy people to help others with online shopping; some older folks do not have computers, and others do not have the technological chops to order groceries online.  If you can help with that (from the comfort of your home) please let me know and I will put you on the list.  Several people have already put their names on that list but we could always use more.


Fourth, even though our physical doors are closed, we will be doing online programming through the week.  Tonight at 7:30, we will have a Zoom session just for people to share thoughts and feelings about the current situation.  It can be very helpful and therapeutic to talk with others who are experiencing similar emotions.

I will be moving my Torah-study class to Wednesday morning at 10:30 this week (rather than Thursday morning).  We will look at this week’s double parasha – the last two portions of the book of Exodus.  This will also be on Zoom, link forthcoming.

Room J classes are continuing via Zoom.  If you are part of the Room J learning community, Audrey will have been in touch with you.  Look for her emails for details.

On Thursday night at 7:30, Audrey Korelstein and I will be conducting our second NightShul class from the series Israel: Three Sessions, Four Questions.  This will be conducted on the online platform Zoom – we will send a link and information about that.  Zoom allows for multi-media learning, break-out discussion groups etc, and we hope to showcase some of its versatility this Thursday as we put our 4 Hatikva Questions to work (Don’t worry if you missed the first session – we will review everything.  Just “come”).  Link to Zoom forthcoming.

On Friday evening, a group of cantors and rabbis from Brooklyn (including me) will be hosting a community-wide virtual Kabbalat Shabbat service.  Please stay tuned for details.  It should be very beautiful and meaningful, so please put that on your calendar for this Friday evening.

And finally, as I mentioned earlier, there will be some kind of Shabbat service/study session on Shabbat morning.



I will continue to keep you updated as things progress.  There will be more announcements about programs in the coming days.  If you need any help, please reach out to the synagogue.

Thank you for your patience at this trying and difficult time.  We are stronger together, and it is comforting to know that we may rely on one another through this crisis.

With blessings for health and strength,

Rabbi Sam Levine