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Update: Friday, April 3, 2020

Dear Members of Beth Am,

We hope this message finds you and your family as well as possible, as we prepare ourselves for a Pesach like no other. We are reaching out to update you on recent developments at Beth Am, and to ask for your continued support.

The Talmud teaches that all members of the House of Israel are responsible for one another [Shevuot 39a]. In the midst of this unprecedented crisis, Congregation Beth Am – House of the People – is working hard to fulfill the mitzvah of mutual responsibility and care.

When COVID-19 made in-person gatherings impossible, our clergy, staff and lay leaders were prepared to respond quickly and creatively, using our existing Live Stream and Zoom capabilities. Within a few days, our normal activities were transformed into virtual opportunities to pray, learn, receive pastoral care, do the work of social justice and socialize. Our program team quickly began offering new events to meet the needs of our community – guest lectures, workshops, clergy conversations, music and meditation, even a young adult art studio. Our teachers and clergy are connecting with our youth through online Judaica and Hebrew classes, story hours, personal meetings, informal gatherings for middle school and high school students, Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation and youth-oriented worship.

Our clergy and dedicated volunteers have now called every member household of the congregation to check on how our members are doing and to provide help where needed, from grocery shopping for seniors to emotional support and financial assistance. We’ve begun raising money for Beth Am’s Social Action Emergency Relief Fund, which will provide help to congregants and community members who are in financial distress due to COVID-19.

Beth Am has been able to rise to this challenge, thanks to our strong staff and excellent administrative infrastructure. But our ability to sustain these efforts and care for our members will be severely tested in the coming months. We know that everyone has been impacted by the current crisis, some much more than others. Our “fair share” dues policy has always made it possible for people at all financial levels to join Beth Am, and our leadership is committed to keeping this community open, welcoming and accessible to all. In a typical year, up to 70% of our operating funds come from “fair share” membership dues. While we do not yet know the full economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, we are anticipating a significant decline in this source of funds.

Since 75% of our expenses go to payroll and since we have limited financial reserves, the potential options to cut expenses will require tough decisions. Our board’s executive committee has formed a response team to study and advise on these difficult issues. As the financial crisis unfolds and we assess the immediate and longer term needs of Beth Am, we will be turning to our generous members for additional support. Your continued support, including your membership commitment, will provide us greater flexibility to meet our obligations, sustain our programs and continue to pay our hard-working staff, allowing them to support their families. Thank you for the love and commitment you have always shown to Congregation Beth Am.

This week’s Torah portion reminds us that we can’t let the light of Jewish community be extinguished: “A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out” [Leviticus 6:6]. By working together and helping one another, we know we will survive this crisis. On the eve of our Feast of Freedom, we remember that the journey to the Promised Land may be long and arduous, but we will get there together.

In the meantime, please do stay in touch – let us know if you need help, can help others, or have ideas about how Beth Am can continue to thrive.

We wish you and those you love a meaningful Pesach. And as we conclude our Seder with the words “Next year in Jerusalem,” let us look with hope towards the time when we’ll be able to gather once again in our beautiful Beth Am sanctuary, celebrating this community that we cherish.

With blessings and a virtual hug,
Rabbi Janet Marder                       Andy Cheng                       Rachel Tasch     
Senior Rabbi                                    President                             Executive Director

Tue, April 20 2021 8 Iyar 5781