Dear Temple Emanuel Members and Friends:

These are indeed strange and uncharted times in which we are living. While we have missed physically coming together in our synagogue, holding and touching our Torah, and sitting around the tables in the social hall, enjoying the oneg coordinated by our Sisterhood, the level of participation and engagement in our Jewish community has been inspiring.

Since mid-March, we have worked together to keep our Temple community engaged and involved—offering virtual Sunday and Hebrew school classes, Shabbat and holiday services via Zoom and other streaming services, and spiritual guidance and support, as needed. It has been a genuinely monumental community effort.

Perhaps it should not be surprising—after all, since the beginning of time, this is what we Jews do: adapt our traditions and practices, so they remain meaningful and relevant, enduring from generation to generation.

As we have previously shared, a task force was created in June to consider best practices for providing our members worship and programming opportunities in a manner that both protects our sacred space and respects our community. The task force spent many hours over the summer, discussing and implementing the logistics to offer weekly Shabbat services and Torah study entirely through streaming video. Doing so, we have brought together between 40 to over 100 attendees each week! In addition to planning for the Temple’s immediate needs, the task force, based upon the guidance and recommendations of the CDC and local physicians, also generated a range of plans for safely reopening the synagogue building when it becomes prudent to do so.

In mid-July, the Rio Grande Valley became a hot spot of the Covid-19 pandemic, with skyrocketing cases and a frightening number of deaths each day. At this point, our local medical experts see positive indicators in the trends. While the number of new cases is not increasing as quickly as they were in July, they continue to grow at an uncomfortable rate. For that reason, and in light of the public health forecasts for the near future, the task force has made the exceptionally challenging and difficult recommendation to the Board of Directors that we will be unable to safely welcome worshippers into the Temple for the High Holy Days this year.

While it is heartbreaking to imagine High Holidays so different from those of years past, Rabbi Farb, Rabbi Silins, and Paulette Gindler-Bishop, along with our Ritual Committee, are committed to providing meaningful, spiritual and thought-provoking experiences for us.

We are working to safely create opportunities for private meditation and reflection at some designated time in the Temple sanctuary. If such time is important to you, please reply to this email and let us know so that we may keep you informed.

While our building may be closed to physical gatherings, make no mistake about it—Temple Emanuel is not. We are open. We are engaged. We are committed to our Jewish community, and the Rio Grande Valley community at large. We will celebrate the start of 5781 differently but filled with a renewed commitment to our faith and our community, and with hope and an ever strengthened dedication to Tikkun Olam.

With sincere wishes for a healthy and meaningful coming holiday season,

Ito Deutsch.