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Rabbi Stiefel's Monthly Article

Rabbi Sharon Stiefel

July 2021 The Current


Reopening – What’s Next?

A few weeks ago, we invited family friends over for Shabbat dinner. They were the first guests we have had in sixteen months. I marveled at how much has changed yet how easily I was able to step back into deep-rooted patterns. When I made the salad, I realized I had not used my beautiful large bowl for over a year. I seamlessly went back to my old routine of making more food. And was also a little rusty on how to pace myself. It wasn’t that nothing had changed nor that everything had changed. I felt different and needed to acknowledge that there had been change.

I imagine it will be similar when we return to in-person gathering in our worship space. When we set up the room and put out the ark, kippot, tallitot, and siddurim, we will have body memories for how to arrange our sacred objects. But we will be out of practice and our literature table will not be up-to-date.

We are in the midst of discussing reopening at Mayim Rabim. A survey has gone out to assess congregants’ comfort with gathering in person. We all share concerns about safety. We yearn to be together. The factors are many: Covid-19 positivity rates, new strains of the virus, vaccinations, masks, singing, and inevitably, unanticipated new information. When members ask me when we are reopening and what we are going to do, I answer truthfully that I do not know yet. There is no one right answer. We will make the best decision for Mayim Rabim with the information we gather. I am appreciative of an ad-hoc committee convening to take into consideration the survey results as well as developing a rubric we can follow.

As a Reconstructionist community, it will not be a decision made by just the Rabbi and President. Our democratic approach will take into consideration all the responses. Just as one of our Reconstructionist hallmarks is that “the past has a vote but not a veto,” so too, any one person’s needs will have a vote but not a veto. We are a diverse community and some will want to wait and some will want to reopen immediately and others will be somewhere in between. 

We are fortunate that the Friends, from whom we rent our meeting space, are grappling with similar issues. They are putting in place, with our input, how to have a multi-platform approach where some can be in the worship space in- person and others are able to connect over technology from home. The safety, well-being, and cohesion of our community are our priorities. To refer back to another Reconstructionist principle, Judaism as an evolving civilization, I can say with certainty that our decisions also evolve as we take into account additional information. Stay tuned for what’s next as we allow the process to unfold. Most of all, know that during this ever-changing time, the sacredness of our Mayim Rabim community and our shared Jewish journey remains constant.