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COVID-19 Address to Congregation, 3/15/20

03/16/2020 05:11:47 PM

Mar16

Rabbi Charlie

Hi everyone!

Erev Tov, Good Evening. I’m recording this on Sunday evening, March 15th.

For all who are in need of healing, we pray for a refuah shleimah as we pray for this coronavirus to pass us by quickly. Things have moved quickly since Friday when we made the decision to suspend all in person gatherings at CBI. I want to give you an update on all that’s been happening and the steps we’re taking over the next couple weeks.

Because this is an extraordinary time, over the weekend I attended a small gathering of community leaders that was organized by State Representative Giovanni Capriglione and Southlake Mayor, Laura Hill. There were representatives from different cities related to government, school districts, the business community, social services, and I was one of two representatives from the faith-based community. In addition, I was a part of a Tarrant County call for faith-based leaders that included public health officials organized by Judge Glen Whitley.

I want to reassure you that everyone was saying the same thing and everyone had the same concerns. I found the public health information very helpful. Officials explained that corona viruses are a family. We have seen several of them since the 1960s. Some are very common. They tend to spread in a similar way to the flu. What’s different is that COVID-19 is a new corona virus. It’s never been in the human population so we don’t have a natural immunity. There’s no treatment or vaccine. That’s why it’s become a pandemic and that’s why it’s important for our society as a whole to take practical steps to keep people as safe as possible.

While those steps are extreme, they are the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. I heard consistently, from all leaders, that individually and as a congregation, we should avoid non-essential in person gatherings. When you go out, maintain a six foot distance with others. Avoid touching your face, washing hands – all of the things you have heard are very important to slow or prevent the spread of the disease. That even includes keeping our kids away from their friends. It’s amazing to say, but now is a good time to encourage our kids to take advantage of online communication. I did hear that day care facilities will be kept open, however. See below this video for official resources about COVID-19. If you feel sick, please contact your health care provider or one of the coronavirus hotlines listed below to determine how to get tested.

Part of this necessity is due to the uncertainty we are facing. Our area and our nation does not yet have the ability to test everyone that should be tested. The incubation period for the disease is up to 14 days, so we just don’t know how bad it is going to be. In Tarrant County, as of last night we only had 4 confirmed cases of COVID-19. But public health officials tell us that there are most likely many more people who have the disease that don’t yet know it. For that reason, they are encouraging us to take practical steps to help slow the spread of the disease.

There is an understanding that these steps are very difficult. While Pikuach Nefesh – saving lives – are the overriding factor for these decisions, the economic impact is huge. The impact on families when schools are not meeting in person is huge. During these meetings, I heard a great deal of concern expressed for seniors, children who rely on school lunch programs, local businesses and hourly workers.

For those who are able, please consider donations to GRACE, the Economic Enrichment Center, or any local charitable organization. Groups like Meals on Wheels may need additional support as more seniors are encouraged not to leave their homes. My understanding is that the schools are making plans to feed the thousands of students that take advantage of school breakfast and lunch programs.

I’ve also learned that blood supplies in our area are critically low. While CBI felt we had to cancel our blood drive that was scheduled for next week, Carter Blood Care is in desperate need of blood donors. According to Carter, blood donations are safe and coronaviruses, including COVID-19, have never been spread by blood transfusion. If you are healthy and not in a high-risk category you can save lives by giving blood. Please make an appointment if you are able. I’ve included links to Carter locations below.

For practical considerations – it sounds like more restaurants are trying to incorporate delivery. Many pharmacies have drive through pick up for medicines. Take out at restaurants or curbside pick up of groceries is a great option during this time, as well. Public health officials did recommend washing hands after getting groceries or other needed supplies.

Those are some general guidelines from what I’ve heard over the weekend. Within the CBI community, the impact has been very hard as well. It’s heartbreaking that the Memorial Service honoring the memory of Neil Strassman was postponed and may be cancelled. And it’s heartbreaking that the Bat Mitzvah of Elizabeth Berger and the Bar Mitzvah of Alex Cohen have been postponed as well. I’m working with the families to get those rescheduled. While it is very challenging, we are committed to demonstrating our love and support for our families and our young people. As soon as these events are rescheduled, we’ll notify the community and we know that they will be very special events.

This is a disruptive time for all of us. It is also a time for solidarity. So even though this situation is far from normal, the value of caring for our community remains strong. That starts with our CBI Board and continues with our newly reestablished Caring Committee led by Dana King, Marilyn Gray, and Ana Greenberg. With their help and your help, we are hoping to reach out to our membership during this time of difficulty. During this time of social distancing we want to make sure that no one feels totally isolated.

To assist, we are asking for volunteers who are willing to reach out to about ten households a couple times a week over the next few weeks. If you are interested in helping with this mitzvah, please contact Marilyn Gray. If you feel healthy and are not in a high-risk category for the disease, there may also be opportunities to help by picking up groceries or needed medicines. If you’re willing to volunteer in this way, please contact Dana King. And if you have a specific need – running low on supplies or groceries or you need medicine picked up, please let Dana or myself know. Marilyn and Dana’s information is below.

In addition, we are exploring streaming options for services and for virtual community gatherings. I am planning to lead virtual services on Wednesday evening at 7pm, Friday evening at 7pm, and Saturday morning at 10am. Wednesday night will be the test run. Look for more information with specifics details. It would be great to have you log on just to give feedback. I haven’t done this before – so please be both kind and constructive!

To keep people connected, I will also offer an hour of study and questions a couple times a week. It’ll be sort of an online gathering. We’re still trying to figure out what this will look like, so again, look for more information soon. And if we can, we’ll try to get something together for our Religious School students. While our building is currently closed until the end of March, we will be evaluating the situation. Our Board and leadership is very interested in making sure we remain connected during this time of difficulty. Please continue to check email, Facebook, and our website for updates. Our local government is meeting daily to assess the reality based on the information they have available. It is very much my expectation that our efforts will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help more ordinary life begin again as quickly as possible.

Throughout this process I encourage you to offer that sense of compassion to our leadership on all levels and to each other. We are imperfect people making the best decisions we can make based on imperfect data. Please be kind to one another during this pandemic.

And please know that I’m available on my cell phone, night or day. In addition to the work of our Caring Committee, I will be doing all I can to reach out over the next couple weeks. But know that you can call me any time.

For now, I’ll leave you with an adapted prayer from liturgist Alden Solovy,

A prayer for Healing from Coronavirus

Be with all of us who are filled with anxiety. Bring comfort and strength and patience to help us through the hours and days and weeks ahead.

Source of healing, Cast the light of health and well-being On those who've been exposed to coronavirus, Those who have contracted the disease And those -- God forbid -- who contract the disease in the future.

Bless them, protect them and bring them speedily to full recovery. Bless all who are ill with healing of body Healing of soul and healing of spirit.

Baruch atah Adonai, m’kor chayim. Blessed are You Adonai, source of Life

Erev Tov, Good Evening.

Important Numbers, Links, and Resources: Tarrant County COVID-19 Information Hotline: 817-248-6299 (currently available during business hours – they are trying to expand those hours)

Tarrant County COVID-19 website - http://www.tarrantcounty.com/en/public-health/disease-control---prevention/coronaviruas.html

Texas Health Resources 24/7 Hotline to speak to a nurse: 682-236-7601

CDC Prevention Guidelines - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

CDC Steps to take if you are sick - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

Carter Bloodcare Letter of Need and Safety - http://www.carterbloodcare.org/covid-19-message-ceo/ Carter Bloodcare

Centers and Schedule - https://ww2.greatpartners.org/donor/schedules/centers

If you can help make calls to CBI Members, please contact Marilyn Gray at marilyn.gray@frontier.com

If you can help volunteer or if you have a need for assistance, please contact Dana King at dwking67@gmail.com

I'm available 24/7. Looking forward to hearing from you! Contact me at rabbi@congregationbethisrael.org or 817-983-3665.

 

Thu, July 9 2020 17 Tammuz 5780