Shabbat Shalom ~ Ki Tissa

Dear WJC Family,

I have been thinking a lot about our sanctuary over the last couple of days. I have only had the privilege to daven in that beautiful room for half a year or so and yet I will miss it terribly this Shabbat. For those of you who have spent decades coming into that sanctuary on Shabbat, I can only imagine how much more acute that longing is at this moment. I don’t often think too deeply about what we call that room: a sanctuary, and yet “ki shmo ken hu – As its name so it is.” Our sanctuary is a place of refuge and regeneration, a house of religion and rest. It is our spiritual home for Shabbat and it is painful to know that we will not be able to enter it for sanctuary at this moment when it is so desperately needed. It is a great irony of this disease that it drives us from our holy sanctuary even as the anxiety it produces makes us long to be there. Our challenge now is to find sanctuary in each other when we cannot gather together physically, but it is a challenge we can meet as a spiritual family because that’s what families do.

This Shabbat the WJC building will be closed, but our virtual community will continue. In addition, we will be hosting our Assistant Rabbi candidate virtually as well. Our Search Committee truly believes we have four excellent candidates that we are hosting for interview weekends. It is a shame that we will not get the opportunity for the majority of us to meet with Rabbi Cowans in person, but hopefully, we will all make a real effort to attend these virtual forums and we will do our best to make them as personal and illustrative of her talents as possible.

On Friday, look in your inbox for “link invitations” to three virtual gatherings over this weekend (or click here), one Friday evening, one Saturday night and one on Sunday morning. Cantor Goldberg and I will host these gatherings, along with our Assistant Rabbi candidate Rabbi Deena Cowans. Friday evening we will meet before Shabbat at 5:30pm for an online Kabbalat Shabbat ritual to include music, meditation, and prayer co-led by the three clergy. On Saturday night Rabbi Cowans will lead us in havdalah at 8:30 so we can send out Shabbat together. We hope that these opportunities will allow us to frame a Shabbat that will be meditative and relaxing.

Then on Sunday we will have an important opportunity to meet Rabbi Cowans at 10am. In this virtual meeting she will deliver a sermon on the Saturday’s Torah portion and then have a Q&A session with our Search Committee chairs Marty Marcus and Mia Mandel. Look for a subsequent email with information about how to join these virtual meeting opportunities.

We hope that all of these opportunities will not only give us the opportunity to get to know Rabbi Deena Cowans as best as we can under the circumstances but will also give us a chance to share some community, spirit, and togetherness during a time when we really need it. We may not be able to enter our physical sanctuary, and we will miss that this Shabbat, but the truth is that without us in it, the sanctuary is just a very beautiful room.

Now is the time to be each other’s sanctuary, to recognize that our community was made for moments like this just as much as the peaceful Shabbatot and simchas we are used to sharing, and to support one another as particular needs arise due to limitations on movement and desire not to be out in public. Please let us know if you need help of any kind. Email is the best way to reach us just now, but we are working on a call-in number as well so be on the lookout for that too.

Also, please join me in praying for the welfare of all those being affected by this terrible scourge—we wish a refuah shleimah (a complete recovery) to the afflicted, hizuk (strength) for the caretakers and healers and shalom peace of mind and calm for the rest of us.

I want to thank those who have enabled us to make the difficult decisions that have faced us as an organization and a community over these last ten days—the members of the COVID-19 Task Force, our executive director David Goldstein, and the unflappable leadership of our president Seth Schafler who has been nothing short of extraordinary even when confined to his home. I also want to thank the Westchester Jewish Council and its CEO Elliot Forcheimer who have done an amazing job connecting the greater Jewish community with the authorities, sharing information and giving guidance. Without the Westchester Jewish Council this situation would be a lot harder to manage and we would be less prepared to make good decisions on behalf of our community.

We are still experimenting with the technology, but hopefully next week we will also be able to offer some classes online to keep us learning and engaged with our community. So, please pay close attention to your email and be in touch. We want to know you’re okay.

And as the Torah must go on, for our weekly d’var Torah, click on the video link below.

See you online,




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