Erev Shabbat Message from Rabbi Elliot Schoenberg

Posted by The Jewish Center on 06/05/2020

My Dear Congregation,
I am thrilled to be starting as your Interim Spiritual Leader. I look forward to meeting you personally, and getting to know the people of this community. I am only sorry that I begin my time here in the middle of a pandemic. This is a time when the congregation's tragic loss of Rabbi Feldman z"l has been compounded by the numerous losses we each have experienced as part of this COVID crisis. We have all lost so much: personal contact, group experiences, bountiful simchas. Many of us have lost friends, family members, teachers, colleagues. Many have lost their jobs and had their livelihood threatened.  It is a painful and stressful time.
Another result of this crisis is that it is changing the way we do our Judaism. On Pesach, I was with my 92 year old mother-in-law for the first time in years because she lives in Chicago and we did a Zoom Seder, but my niece, nephew and their family on Long Island, our Seder regulars, could not attend. I officiated at a Zoom funeral for my cousin in Brooklyn. No friends joined us to eat blintzes this past Shavuot. Life, and our Judaism is changing for all of us.
Starting this Shabbat,  we will be introducing into our Zoom Shabbat morning service "devarim shebikushah" prayers that require a minyan. This includes Kaddish, Kedushah, Barchu and reading Torah from the Scroll. We will institute these changes as a result of a recent opinion by the Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Law and Standards which states that participation in a Zoom service can constitute a minyan.
Some may find these changes disconcerting, others may find them comforting. Let me share with you my reasoning. First, the Rabbinical Assembly finds halachic justification for this position, and the positions taken by the Rabbinical Assembly have been continually evolving since the pandemic began. Second, I believe these changes will bring us closer together as a community.  Third, we are modeling the principle of Conservative Judaism that halacha evolves and changes to meet new situations.
My goal as a Rabbi has always been to help people find deeper meaning and joy in their lives through their Jewish observances. If you have ideas, I invite you to share your thoughts and feelings with me as together we explore this new and difficult territory of life in a time of COVID. 

Warmest wishes for Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Elliot Schoenberg