The high holidays are rapidly approaching. We will be celebrating the end of our year, ushering in a new year, and asking each other for forgiveness as always. However, this year we will do so under very different conditions than any other time in our lifetimes.
I am also confident that our rabbis will teach us how to celebrate these holidays halachically and safely. I also suspect, in this era of COVID-19, more of us will be performing the mitzvah of eating in a sukkah with family. This pandemic is ripe for this mitzvah!
As we consider how we will be celebrating and praying with our community through these holidays, I would like to plant a seed. For many of us this time of year, we connect with our rabbis and synagogues more than usual. It is a blessing in our community that all of our synagogues and rabbis have remained intact for our teaching, support, spiritual nourishment and life cycle events. As it has been difficult for us to navigate these times, so has it been difficult for our institutions of worship.
Our synagogues are a center for education: pre-school, Hebrew school, learning Hebrew, adult education, motivation and support. Our buildings support community events, social gatherings and life cycle events. The ritual of weekly prayer invites people to become more involved, spiritually, physically and financially. Special programing for disabled, summer camp, seniors and youth groups are all staples in synagogue life.
Now, as we all recognize, almost all of these programs – in other words, sources of income – have evaporated. Our shuls as well as their most important assets, clergy and staff, remain intact and must remain intact. They are an indispensable piece of Judaism and our heritage. They, like everything else in this current atmosphere, are just performing essential tasks until life is back to normal.
I am pointing this out because this year most synagogues will not fill their sanctuaries during high holiday services, and this means yet one more lost revenue stream for our beloved institutions.
I shouldn’t need to say this, but our synagogues cannot continue to thrive while virtually all sources of income have stopped. I suspect for many of our congregations, the high holidays represent the single largest fundraising opportunity of the year (after dues).
If you are in a position to give, now is the time to stand up. If you want to safeguard your synagogue and support the perpetuity of your rabbi as well as the rest of the clergy and staff, now is the time to open your wallet. If you want to ensure the continuity of Judaism in Atlanta, now is the time to make a donation. If we all do what we can, if we all do something, our rabbis and our synagogues will weather this storm with us.
This year, most of us will not pray together or even in a synagogue. Do not let that determine your level of support. We do not always know when we will need our rabbis, but we do know that our rabbis and synagogues need us now more than ever.