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Virtual Temple Israel
Important High Holiday Announcement
July 7, 2020
According to talmudic legend, Rabbi Akiva and two of his fellow sages once took a long journey to Jerusalem in order to behold the magnificent and sacred Temple Mount with their own eyes. When they arrived only to find the Temple Mount empty of people, the other two sages despaired and began to cry. But Rabbi Akiva did not cry. His friends asked him, “Akiva, do you not see that God’s sacred place is deserted and desolate? Why aren’t you crying?” Rabbi Akiva smiled and replied, “Because I have seen the future, and I have faith that our renewal is at hand.” Upon hearing this, his colleagues were comforted. (Makkot 24b, paraphrase)
Today, our Temple Israel building, too, sits empty of people. It is a difficult and painful thing to see the doors of our communal home shuttered – and yet, we are not despairing. Though we have not been able to gather in-person for three months, our community is as vibrant as ever, with congregants coming together online nearly every day of the week to pray, learn, connect, and care for each other. Even in the midst of this crisis, we, like Rabbi Akiva, can see that renewal is at hand – and that the future of Judaism is now.
It is with this mixture of trepidation and optimism, disappointment and excitement, that we write to tell you that we have decided to hold our High Holiday services this year exclusively online. We understand the thought of not coming to Temple Israel for High Holidays is disappointing, saddening, and even unsettling. But we are not despairing. While this will certainly be an unconventional High Holiday season, we are excited about the opportunities it presents to be creative and try new things.
As we move forward with our planning, we would love to hear from you. What do you like most about the High Holidays? What do you think would make our virtual experience this year especially meaningful? We invite you to take a few minutes to share your thoughts by clicking here. Your insights will be helpful to us as we craft our High Holiday offerings. In the meantime, we are excited to share some of what we are planning:
- We will blend the traditional and the innovative in creating special worship experiences that are relevant to the particular spiritual challenges and realities of the COVID-era. Services will be shorter and tighter than usual, so as to enable our congregants to remain fully engaged without suffering from “Zoom fatigue.”
- While our building will be closed to the public, the clergy are aiming to lead services from the sanctuary (and potentially from other areas of our building as well) with appropriate social distancing and other precautions. This will enable us to utilize our beautiful spaces in new and exciting ways in order to create a textured and engaging worship experience.
- We will incorporate the launch of our congregation’s 150th anniversary celebration into our services and programming.
- We will “lean in” to the unique nature of the virtual world by providing you with access to an array of High Holiday offerings, including services and other experiences that are taking place outside of Omaha.
While this is uncharted territory for us and our community, we are energized by the chance to create something exciting and innovative for our congregation – a High Holiday experience that will nourish, inspire, uplift, and sustain us during this unique and uncertain time in our history. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to any one of us and we will be delighted to speak with you.
These times in which we are living are challenging and difficult, and we grieve for all that we are missing. At the same time, they present us with unprecedented opportunities to be pioneers in re-imagining Judaism for the future. This is our sacred calling. Like Rabbi Akiva, we are ready to answer it with optimism and vision, because we have faith that our renewal is at hand.
In peace and friendship,
Rabbi Brian Stoller Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin Cantor Joanna Alexander
Nate Shapiro, Executive Director Dan Gilbert, President
Our Mission: We will engage our community with a modern spiritual, educational and social Jewish experience that uplifts our lives.
Our Vision: To be an inclusive, connected and expanding Reform Jewish community.
Our Goals: Torah, Tzedakah, Tikun Olam