A Message to the WHC Community

Dear Friends –

For all of us, these past ten days have been ones of enormous change and adjustment. Like many of you, my household is very different than it was just a week ago. My husband and I welcomed home three college students, each in various stages of sadness for the experience they are losing and anxiety for what lies ahead. (It has been somewhat jarring to realize that a portion of that anxiety is due to worrying that they will infect their father and me, two adults who don’t feel old enough to warrant special concern!) 

At the same time, I am thinking and worrying about my elderly parents, who live independently in Arizona and are each compromised in their own way. Being separated from them for weeks or months will not be easy, and we are all struggling to find the right approach to this new reality. I know that each of you has your own individual worries about what this period of “social/physical distancing” and “sheltering in place” will bring.

In this time of transition and uncertainty, I have taken comfort in what has stayed the same – the mission of Washington Hebrew to provide spiritual support to our broad community and to create connections between our members. Over the last week, I have watched with awe, pride, and enormous gratitude as every member of the WHC clergy, staff, and leadership worked tirelessly and inventively to transform our usual hands-on congregation into “WHC Virtual” to continue to serve the needs of our sacred community. Careful thought is being given to what each constituency wants and needs — our adult education classes are continuing with a full slate of offerings that are open to all; our Religious School students are continuing their Hebrew learning and playing games online together; our Early Childhood Center teachers are connecting with their classes each day reading stories and leading activities; our teens and college students are gathering on Zoom to continue to learn together and share their experiences of the last several weeks. I hope you have connected with us on our new “WHC Virtual” website and on Facebook to see the daily offerings by the clergy, learn how WHC is cleaning our buildings for everyone’s safety, and watch the staff lovingly feed the fish at the ECC.

Most fundamentally, our clergy have continued to guide us with their words of comfort and inspiration through our Shabbat services. During our first “virtual” Shabbat weekend, our rabbis, cantors, and song leaders helped us feel connected with a wide variety of live-streamed and Zoomed services. They led a lively Tot Shabbat and a peaceful and musical Friday evening service, gathered our young adult community together for Shabbat blessings, taught Early Torah to a record number of participants, led an engaging and meaningful Saturday morning Shabbat service, and brought home-bound college students (like mine) together for Havdalah. Along the way and at every turn, our clergy have reminded us that even though we are physically separated, we remain a sacred community that cares for each other, and we will get through this challenging period together.

As you read in a letter sent to the WHC community yesterday, this “virtual” period will be extended. Based on the recent decisions by the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia, Washington Hebrew will remain closed for in-person programming and events through April 30. There will be information on our website regarding which programs have been postponed and which will be offered online. Every family whose individual event is affected by this decision has been contacted to make appropriate arrangements. We share in the very real disappointment of everyone who has had to alter or postpone a joyful life-cycle event and look forward to celebrating your simcha in the future. For our families in mourning who are further hurt by restrictions on gathering, we hold you close in our hearts and hope you feel the embrace of your Washington Hebrew family.

To help all of you stay connected during this time, please check the “WHC Virtual” website regularly and read all emails that come from Temple. Over the coming weeks, you will find additional online offerings and resources, including information on how you can help others during this time, how WHC could use your increased support during this challenging period, and how you can let us know if you need assistance.

We encourage you to give us your input and feedback as we navigate these next several weeks. Please let us know what is working well for you, what you would like to see more of, and what may be missing in our efforts. You may reach out to any of our staff and clergy or contact me directly at president@whctemple.org. I welcome your comments on any and all aspects of what we are doing.

Finally, we realize that many of our congregants are on the front lines fighting the coronavirus. Whether you are a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, a

first responder, journalist, or an essential government worker, we are grateful for your efforts in keeping all of us safe, healthy, and informed, and we pray for your continued good health and well-being.

My nearly two years as President of Washington Hebrew has shown me the remarkable strength and talents of our clergy, staff, and community. Today’s challenges may be unlike anything most of us have ever encountered, but we will meet them the same way we face any challenge – with faith in God and support for one another. Thank you for your support of WHC, and I wish all of you good health over the coming weeks.

Please click here to see a Facebook post that accompanied this blog.