Looking to the Future

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, May 27, 2021

Parts of this are excerpted from Rabbi Pollack’s message to the congregation at Solel’s recent Annual General Meeting.

Dear Solel Friends,

This year has been a year unlike any other – in your lives, in my life, in my rabbinate. Early on as we navigated the challenges of this pandemic, wondering if we were making the right decisions, concerned about how we would continue to keep our Solel family connected, I kept reminding myself “none of us has ever lived through a pandemic before, we are all learning.” And we have learned, we have connected, we have cried and laughed, even though we have not been able to hug. We have reminded people to mute and unmute and to turn on your camera.

I have had the privilege of connecting with many of you from my virtual rabbi’s study in my basement – Thursday Lunchbreak, Sunday morning adult Torah study, Bet Sefer Classes, Sunday night Chai School with our teens, bar and bat mitzvah prep, board and committee meetings, pastoral counseling, and more.

We have celebrated livestream bat and bar mitzvahs – to date 6 of them and we will be celebrating 6 more before the end of June. We have welcomed new Jews by choice on Zoom bet dins, held Zoom brises, and joined together for Zoom shiva minyanim. We have studied Torah together and our Bet Sefer students have learned Hebrew and Judaica through the internet. We celebrated not one but two years of Passover Seders on Zoom. We have read every parasha of the Torah and celebrated every Jewish holiday on the calendar on our livestream with an empty sanctuary. We have prayed and sung and our many Torah and Haftarah chanters have shared their voices on our livestream services, and our Bet Sefer students have lifted us up in prayer with their Hebrew and English readings and their smiles. We have started and completed our phase one of our renovation. And it has been hard, but we are walking this path together.

From the moment we understood in March of 2020 that we were going to have to pivot to online gathering, our responses have been guided by our core Jewish values, and this has helped us to be thoughtful, deliberate and clear in our actions. I am grateful for all that our staff and leadership and volunteers have done to keep our Solel family connected through these part 14 months. Despite all of the challenges in this pandemic, I am proud of what we have accomplished and I hope you are as well.

These past 14 months have been a roller coaster ride, fraught with uncertainty, grief and loss, rapid change, anxiety, and stress. We have all had to navigate a new normal that is anything but normal. We have all had many losses in this past year – death of loved ones and friends, the loss of opportunities to connect in person, to go to school and work in person, the loss of opportunities to celebrate simchas and mourn in person, the loss of human connection and contact.

As part of our planning for Return, and High Holiday planning, our board leadership will be conducting Zoom Focus Groups for everyone to share your thoughts on what is important to you as and when we re-open. We will be exploring what has worked and hasn’t worked for us in our engagement with Solel through the pandemic: what the future might look like; and how are we going to get there. These focus groups will be starting in the next month and will be open to all members to participate in. We hope that you will choose to take part and offer your input.


Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

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