Reopening Gently (June 2021 KOL Article)
I am so glad to report that Temple B’nai Shalom is reopening our building and resuming our in-person activities. Elsewhere in this bulletin and in various other pieces of communication, you will find information about what we are doing, a schedule of when we are holding indoor and outdoor events and services, and many other details. This is possible due to the tremendous efforts of our staff and lay leadership, who have thought carefully and worked tirelessly to bring us to this time.
But more than the “when” and the “what” of reopening, I want to focus on the “how,” specifically how we might approach this reopening. And that, in a word, is “gently.”
Be gentle with yourself. After 14+ months of restricted social connections and limited interactions, we are each re-entering society at our own pace. Do what is right for you. If you are vaccinated and unmasking, be aware of how you are feeling emotionally. It may take a while to feel comfortable in different settings. Indoors, outdoors, socially distant or not, Zoom, in-person – all of these settings may require a little recalibration on your part. Give yourself the time and space to do that. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Give yourself permission to do what feels best for you.
Be gentle with others. Seldom do we ever know someone else’s full story. Each of us will make choices about our own progress, when we mask or when we don’t, where we will eat or shop or gather, and how we re-enter the world. It’s hard not to judge others, but our tradition requires that we should approach others fairly, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt (Pirkei Avot 1:6). Some of us will proceed more quickly; others will have a slower pace. Be mindful that others will have reasons for why they do (or don’t do) what they do. As always, treat others with kindness.
Be gentle with our community. Throughout the pandemic, TBS has made policy choices guided by our values. We feel the strong pull of kehilah, being together as a community. And we are required to act for the preservation of life, pikuach nefesh. As we reopen the building and resume in-person events, we will continue to adopt practices that safeguard our community as a whole. We know that there are members who are medically vulnerable and others, especially our children, who are not yet vaccinated. We will take steps to ensure their safety and proceed with an abundance of caution. Following our protocols and going at our pace will give us, as a community, the opportunity to enable everyone to join in the reopening.
One other important note: Judaism has long taught that the health of the body and the mind contribute greatly to the health of our soul. To that end, if you are not yet vaccinated, I urge you to do so, when and if it’s medically available to you. Until then, please be very careful with yourself and with others. We want everyone in our community to be healthy and to be able to participate to the degree in which they are comfortable.
To say that this has been an unusual year would be an understatement. I imagine that the next six months will also be unique, as we navigate through this opportunity to return, re-invent, re-invigorate, and re-emerge as a congregation. Though it all, guided by our values, let us treat ourselves, each other, and our community, gently. I look forward with great excitement to seeing you all soon!
Rabbi David S. Widzer