Dear WJC Family,
This is the last message I’ll be writing to you for the next month or so. As we move into the month of July, Cantor Goldberg and I are taking some time off. During this break, we leave you one last time in the hands of our rabbi, teacher, and friend Rabbi Segelman. That’s right—though it is hard to believe and difficult to recognize amidst everything else going on, July will be the last month of Rabbi Segelman’s 33-year tenure as our active rabbi; in August he will become our emeritus.
It is difficult for me to articulate how much I appreciate all that Rabbi Segelman has done for this community and for me personally just in the last year, no less for the decades preceding it. I am sure it is difficult for you to articulate all that he has meant to you as well. Still, it is important to say goodbye. So, if you have not yet had the opportunity to reach out to Rabbi Segelman and send your regards, I encourage you to do so in this next month. Due to the difficult circumstances under which we are operating, we are missing the opportunity to just shake Rabbi’s hand and say good-bye at a Saturday Kiddush; it takes a little extra effort on our part to reach out. Let’s all make that effort.
Similarly, in August, we welcome Rabbi Cornelia Dalton as our new Assistant Rabbi. We are so excited to welcome her and to start learning her Torah. Rabbi Dalton brings remarkable skills and wisdom, and it will likely still require a special effort to greet and get to know her. I hope you will make that special effort to reach out and say ‘welcome’ when she arrives. Not only does it meet our values of Hachnasat Orchim—Hospitality, indeed, but we will also be the beneficiaries as she brings her exceptional abilities into our congregational family.
One thing I will be continuing even while “away” is my work with our High Holiday Task Force. The group has been meeting often and we are working hard to design the most meaningful High Holiday experience for the most people under the circumstances likely to exist in mid-September. This is not an easy task and we are so appreciative of the efforts of all those involved. One thing is becoming clear: a live stream, virtual experience is likely to be part of this year’s High Holiday observance for many if not most of our WJC family.
Experiencing meaningful virtual services takes practice on our part and yours (we are practicing now every Shabbat). I want to encourage you to log onto our Shabbat morning live stream (information below) to participate and see what the experience is like. It is different. Feedback from those who are virtual service regulars says that it takes time to develop a meaningful spiritual connection for yourself. So, logging in now and in the coming weeks will help you get more out of the High Holidays when they come.
Here is one “pro-tip” that folks have mentioned: set up your computer in a “sacred space” or transform your desk into one. If you’re sitting at your desk like any other workday, logging onto the service may feel like work. If you have a laptop, before Shabbat simply move your computer to a more appropriate space. If that is not possible, clean up the area around your desktop computer and get your work stuff out of the area. Perhaps covering your desk with a tablecloth will change the mood there. If you have them, put some Jewish books, objects and/or pictures in the space. Just as we work to set up the sanctuary as a sacred space, your at-home prayer will be more meaningful if you set up that space to be more spiritual as well.
We have a wonderful weekend planned –Ta’am Shabbat tonight at 5:45 where I will be speaking, and preceding that I will be speaking at the UJA/Federation 2:00pm pre-Shabbat program (with Cantor Ethan and Rabbi Shoshi, Rabbi Menanchem Creditor, Rabbi Shai Held and more).
Our Saturday morning Shabbat service starts at 10:00am virtually or by reservation. Cantor Ethan will join us and Tami Arnowitz will daven musaf. We have been working out the kinks with the technology after last week’s problem with Cantor Ethan’s connection. If you would like to be in the rotation to join us live (attendance is strictly limited), email Rosie in the office so we can work you into the rotation. At 9:20pm we will come together again for havdalah.
We also have some great programming on Sunday. At 10:00am our World Jewry Committee will host the producer of “Shtisel.” If you love the show or are just curious, this will be a pretty amazing event. And at 8:15pm I will be on a panel of interfaith clergy on a Facebook Live event hosted by my close friend and colleague Pastor Antipas Harris – “Interfaith Conversation on Racism in America.” The panel will include diverse religious voices.
See you in shul and/or online,