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Congregation Beth HaTephila

An Engaging, Inclusive, Reform Congregation in the Blue Ridge Mountains

President's Message - October 2021

For the past two months, the all-important question among temple leadership and staff had been how to create a meaningful and transformative High Holiday experience for our congregants, both in person and through live streaming; while at the same time keeping our community healthy?  We took the task of creating safety attendance protocols very seriously.  At a time when other temples around the country were making the difficult decision to move their High Holiday services solely online, we were busy brainstorming ways to give our congregants the opportunity to attend their favorite service in person, debating occupancy limits for the sanctuary, weighing the pros and cons of Resonance masks for the ensemble, and how to create engaging outdoor services for our youngest members.

At the time of this writing, Rosh Hashanah services are in the rearview mirror and Yom Kippur is in a few days.  We’ve had a meaningful start to the Holiday season, complete with well attended services where members worshipped while listening to our talented ensemble, a dynamic family service at Weaver Park lead by Seth Kellam and Billy Jonas that drew over one hundred members, and an invigorating second day Rosh Hashanah mountain top hike and service at Craggy Gardens.  

Our Caring Community Committee delivered Rosh Hashanah gift bags of honey cake, apple and honey to our housebound congregants.  Our Lottie Meyerson Tikkun Olam committee collected donations for Manna Food Bank and children picture books.  High Holiday greetings were recorded and broadcast and the roll of remembrance is ready.  Our Brotherhood, Sisterhood and CCC are co-sponsoring Break-the-Fast to-go boxes for attendees to our Yizkor and Neila service and a brand-new sukkah is ready to be assembled in the amphitheater for Sukkot.

As you are reading this, does some of it sound new?  Does some of it sound familiar?  If the answer is yes, I’ll call that a success.  The parts of our High Holiday tradition that passed our pandemic test, we kept.  The parts that seemed unsafe, we modified and adapted.  If you’ve ever wondered how new traditions are born in a religion that is proudly starting its 5782nd year, this may just be how it happens.  Just like we’ve had to tweak our lives as we navigate our pandemic reality, it follows suit that our religious rituals must be limber too.  Someone once said that altering traditions is itself a tradition within the reform movement.  Now more than ever, our ability to experience Judaism outside the box in new and exciting ways is the skill for which this moment calls.  We are in a constant state of becoming and as we do, may we nurture new ways to express our Jewish values, on High Holidays and every day, to strengthen our community and the world. 

Gaia Goldman,
CBHT President

Fri, October 15 2021 9 Cheshvan 5782