Montclair Synagogue Stays In Touch, Holds Virtual Events to Limit COVID-19 Impact

March 20, 2020--Hoping to help limit the impact of COVID-19, staffers and leaders of Bnai Keshet in Montclair have taken a series of steps to assure that the congregants stay safe, take care of each other, and support the broader community’s response to this pandemic.

The Reconstructionist congregation March 14th began streaming Shabbat services on Facebook, holding Zoom trainings for those unfamiliar with the online hosting technology, and monthly lunch-and-learns and weekly meditation sessions on Zoom..

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In its first week of virtual worship, more than 150 Bnai Keshet congregants watched Shabbat services on Facebook and 33 congregants participated in meditations that used to draw no more than 10 participants in person.

Ensuring older congregants get up to speed on using Zoom, Bnai Keshet leaders will offer Zoom training and tech support, said Bnai Keshet’s Farrell Borine, director of operations. And congregants have already or will receive a phone call by another congregant to check in to see if anyone needs anything, he said

“Bnai Keshet has a history of acting courageously and compassionately—together,” senior Rabbi Elliott Tepperman and assistant Rabbi Ariann Weitzman said. “Whether thinking profoundly and inclusively about Jewish life, showing up for each other in moments of mourning and pain, or becoming a sanctuary welcoming strangers in need to live with us, we have acted with strong and open hearts. We know that as we walk through this moment together, we will be present to support each other and we will be strengthened by each other’s love and courage”. 

Rather than center on all the in-person activities the synagogue had to cancel in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, Bnai Keshet’s rabbis and leaders have focused on thinking ahead to what they hope to do to find new ways of coming together and feeling each other’s love and support.

Bnai Keshet leaders initially cancelled all non-essential synagogue activities through the end of Passover on April 15th, but that date likely will be extended. Co-Presidents Paul Shatz and Dinah Hendon described the new steps as part of the congregation’s effort to limit the impact of COVID-19. “The value that inspires this obligation is Pikuach Nefesh which affirms the responsibility to save life and honor our personal and communal health above all other mitzvot – commandments,” Tepperman said. Reconstructing Judaism in and around Montclair, Bnai Keshet is located at 99 South Fullerton Ave., Montclair. For more information, visit www.bnaokeshet.org