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Coronavirus News

Coronavirus News

The most recent information is posted at the top of this page

Posted Monday, 3/30/20 10:03 am


Posted Tuesday, 3/24/20 4:45pm 

Dear Congregant:
With COVID-19 spread continuing and Governor Evers ordering all non-essential businesses to close, we have temporarily closed the synagogue building effective today.  Thanks to the work of our entire staff, we are all now working remotely from our homes; this, however, does not change the fact that we are still working in every way to support and build our congregational community which remains more open than ever.  We know that needs for support of all kinds are only growing.  So all of us, Rabbi Berkson, Cantor Barash, Susan Cosden, RJE, and I, and our entire staff and lay leadership, are working to do even more for all of CEEBJ.
While we are not in the building, we are set up to allow you to reach us as follows:
Contact: If you call CEEBJ at 414-228-7545, you have these choices:
1) Leave a message on the voice mail and Ardyth will collect those messages hourly during business hours and either call you back or pass on the message.
2) Dial one of the staff extensions (you will hear them in the voice mail recording) which will be immediately directed to that staff person’s smart phone.
3) And, of course, you can reach out by text or email.
Business hours: The office staff’s work-at-home hours will be from 10 AM - 4 PM, but if you need to reach Rabbi Berkson, Cantor Barash, Susan Cosden, RJE, or me, contact us directly at any time. 
Access to the building: The building is locked but if you have a special need to access the building, contact Rabbi Berkson or me.
Security: M’Johno Foster, our Director of Security, is keeping a close eye on the building which remains locked and alarmed.
Finally, if you need help or want to provide help related to COVID-19, you can leave a message at our new CEEBJ Cares Hotline (which will be announced more broadly very soon):  414-301-1653.
We will continue to keep you up to date with virtual services, music, learning opportunities, office hours, prayer and meditation groups and more.  Please continue to practice social distancing, handwashing and love.

Andrew Appel
Executive Director
Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun
main: 414-228-7545
cell:   414-797-1524




Posted Wednesday, March 18, 5:08pm

Dear Congregant:
As our kitchen tables become our classrooms, as our television sets and monitors and tablets become our new gathering places, and as Zoom and streaming and Facebook Live become our new meeting places with God, I, too, search for new ways to be your rabbi.  For me, being your rabbi means seeing your faces, hearing your voices, shaking your hands, offering comfort and sharing joy, sharing your stories, so that together we can find a sense of the Eternal in this world—with all of the senses God has gifted us.  The raging pandemic of COVID-19 has made this impossible.  Social distancing seems so distant from community.  Yet now we have to find ways to come together while keeping our distance—and to do this as one.  But this I do know—that we only find true meaning by connecting our lives with others and, with them, connecting our life to the Eternal.
In the midst of the pandemic, as Rabbi Katy Allen has pointed out, grief, fear, anger, and despair rage along with the virus.  And, as Miriam Greenspan reminds us in her book Healing Through the Dark Emotions, each of these and other dark emotions is an indicator of the fact that we care, we love, we are compassionate, we are aware, we are human.  And those are the emotions—care and love and compassion and awareness—to which we must turn as we work to build our community where, for the next weeks or months, we cannot touch each other or speak face-to-face with each other.  As we conclude Shemot, the book of Exodus, this week with the combined portion of Va-yakhel/Pekudei, we read of how Moses and the children of Israel built sacred community in the wilderness of Sinai.  That is what we will do here in a different kind of wilderness.
Yes, our office hours at the synagogue have been limited to 10 am - 4 pm; no public gatherings of any kind may take place in the synagogue.  But congregational life will go on.  All of our adult classes and meetings will take place remotely, usually on Zoom.  One can access these classes and meetings either online with sight and sound on your computers or smart phones or tablets or by sound on your cell phones or landlines.  Our services will continue to be streamed as we try to find better ways to both stream our Shabbat Morning Study Minyan while, at the same time, provide a more interactive study following the service.  We are examining ways to celebrate Pesach remotely together sharing a Pesach meal with an interactive seder surrounding the meal.  We are scheduling a virtual Havdalah with a bedtime story this coming Saturday evening, March 21, at 7:30 pm so we can together say farewell to Shabbat.  We are finding ways to be in touch with all of our members as a form of community check-in on a regular basis.  We are setting asides monies to help our members through these financially difficult times out of our Discretionary Funds and through additional contributions that our congregants may make.  And we are looking at posting regular videos from us on our website, our Facebook page, and through Emanu-Email.  Finally, since we understand that the most crucial thing any one of us can do for our health is to wash our hands for 20 seconds, it seems now exhausting, inappropriate, and insipid to sing Happy Birthday twice to time our cleanse.  Some of my Christian colleagues have suggested saying the Lord’s Prayer for their congregants and parishioners.  A colleague of mine suggested the following prayer for those of us who are Jewish:        
As we wash our hands
We pray,
Blessed is the Soul of the Universe,
Breathing us in and breathing us out.
May our breaths continue
And our health and the health of all
Be preserved
In this time of sickness and fear of sickness.
Holy Wholeness,
We take as much responsibility for it as we can
By observing the obligation to wash our hands,
Using lots of soap and hot water,
For as long as it takes to say this prayer.
Perhaps some of us may even figure out a different prayer to a song we recognize that would make it even easier to remember how long to wash.
Let me conclude this letter to you with a prayer sent to me by Andrea Konz which was written by Cameron Bellm:
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
 let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
Let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.
Our Cantor, our Director of Lifelong Learning, and our Executive Director join me in sharing with you the words we will say this coming Shabbat morning when we conclude the book of Exodus from Torah:  hazak, hazak, v’nit-hazek—let us be strong, let us be strong, and let us strengthen one another.

Rabbi Marc E. Berkson




Posted Friday, 3/13/20 2:53pm


Posted Friday, 3/13/20 11:15am

SHABBAT CHILI DINNER and KIDushat Shabbat Service
To Be Rescheduled

To all who were planning on joining us for the KIDushat Shabbat service and the Shabbat Chili Dinner this evening, we wanted to let you know that in light of decisions that we are making for the safety of our community as it relates to Covid-19, we are postponing these events this evening to a later date. 

We know this will be a wonderful evening, and will look forward to seeing you all there when we've rescheduled. Please keep your eyes out for a comprehensive email later today regarding our plans for tonight's Shabbat Eve Service and the rest of our response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shabbat Shalom,

Andrew Appel
Executive Director

Marc Berkson
Senior Rabbi

Michael Levin

.Posted Saturday, 3/7/20 9:14pm

Dear Congregants, 
Per our last note regarding CEEBJ’s approach to handling the current coronavirus situation, I wanted to give a brief update. Our Director of Lifelong Learning, Susan Cosden, has a son who has been studying abroad in Rome, Italy. Although there have been no outbreaks in his area, his school is repatriating the students, and he will be in home quarantine at Susan's home in Milwaukee for 14 days, per CDC requirements.  In preparation for his arrival, Susan has been in consultation with the North Shore Health Department (NSHD).  NSHD informed her that as long as their condition was monitored, it was appropriate and safe for her to come in to work at CEEBJ.
Despite this recommendation, and after discussions with senior leadership including Susan, we have decided to have Susan work from home for 14 days, beginning tomorrow morning.   We feel that while we believe there is little risk in having her come in as reflected by NSHD’s recommendation, there may be new information coming in daily about coronavirus, and it was better to act out of an abundance of caution.
We so appreciate the staff and volunteer leaders who will be helping out during this period.  If anyone has any questions, please feel free to call or write.
Shavua tov,

Andrew Appel
Executive Director

Posted Wednesday, 3/4/20 12:41pm

Dear Congregants,
It has been an eventful few weeks with public attention worldwide focused on the novel coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. We recognize this may be causing concern, and we want to let you know about our current approach at Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun.
The primary value of pikuach nefesh, the saving or preserving of life, is a paramount mitzvah that transcends virtually all others. From dramatic rescues to judicious precautions, care of health is fundamental in our tradition. But it is also critical to strike a balance between justified concern and impulsive fear. Allowing fear to obscure fact could worsen the damage from a threat to the well-being of our community.  And so, we at CEEBJ are striving to be thoughtful and measured in our responses to the challenges posed by Covid-19. 
First we consult with health agencies such as the North Shore Health Department and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who provide guidance about preventative actions to help prevent the spread of any respiratory disease. We also reference policies and practices of organizations such as local school districts, and we reflect on our own past experiences with other diseases, including flu outbreaks.
At CEEBJ, we are increasing our stringent hygiene practices that are already a constant routine, including more frequent cleaning of surfaces such as doorknobs, handrails, table tops and office equipment with disinfecting cleansers. You will see more hand sanitizing stations around the building. While at this time we have no specific concerns about this virus at CEEBJ, we have already begun to prepare for the possibility that a spread of the virus in the U.S. may require us to temporarily close the building or limit events. Staff and clergy are developing contingency plans in the event that this becomes necessary. We will continue to follow the guidelines of state and local health agencies. 
The safety and well-being of our community is a priority. Please review what each of us can do to help our community remain healthy. We are all in this together.
Keep yourself healthy 
- Wash your hands frequently and vigorously with soap, especially after touching public surfaces. Read more about good handwashing practices. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Get a flu shot. Currently, influenza has a much more significant rate of infection than Covid-19. Getting a seasonal flu vaccination helps prevent you from getting sick, and protects those around you. 
Keep others healthy - During this tentative time, let's make safety and reducing contagion the highest priority. If you, or your child, have flu-like symptoms (fever and cough or shortness of breath), please do not enter CEEBJ until a full 24 hours after the temperature has returned to normal without the use of fever-reducing medications. Exercise an over-abundance of caution. We are asking the same of our staff. Finally, it is good practice to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, using a tissue or sleeve, and throwing tissues in a bin immediately after use.
Remember, you can stay connected to CEEBJ from home via our live streaming at All Friday evening and Saturday morning Shabbat services are streamed live.
Thanks for joining us and doing your part to help prevent the spread of infection at Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun. We look forward to welcoming you to CEEBJ -  our worship services, school and programs remain open and thriving. We will continue to carefully monitor and plan for changing conditions, and will share our response with you. If you have any questions or concerns please contact me or Susan Cosden (for the religious school). Rabbi Berkson and Cantor Barash are also here for you to support you and your family. Please reach out if you are in need.
Most importantly, it is at times of stress and uncertainty, personal or communal, that our CEEBJ community is a beacon of support and solace. Our tradition teaches us to care for one another at times of need, and to reach out to one another to anticipate need. This is an opportune time to check in on an elderly neighbor who lives alone or on a friend who might need a hand with groceries. 
As a CEEBJ family, we find strength in our bonds to help us through trying times, as always.

Andrew Appel
Executive Director

Tue, June 2 2020 10 Sivan 5780