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Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Information and Schedule Changes

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Mel and Max Brooks' Coronavirus PSA

A Message from Rabbi Nathan

Friends, in order to facilitate staying connected during this time of the coronavirus we have initiated Shabbat services and other events through the Zoom video/audio platform. You do not need to download Zoom to your computer to be able to join but some people find it helpful to do so. In order to connect to a service or event you have two options: (1) join by video using a camera on your computer and video from your computer, or (2) calling in by phone in order to hear the audio of the service or event.
Because the office is closed during Shabbat, we recommend that you set up Zoom and test the links during business hours, so that you/we can address any technical issues.  We hope that this will be a simple to use service for all BI members but if you are having any difficulty please let our secretary (Diane) or administrator (Kristin) know and they will connect you with support. 
Editor's Note (March 18, 2020): During the past few days, Beth Israel has been a source of strength and comfort for my family.  Even my teenage son joined in!  It's wonderful to see and hear members of our community coming together, even when we are physically apart.  I encourage you to join us for future events.   -Josh Waterston, webmaster.

Hebrew School Information

Thank you to our amazing Hebrew School students, parents, teachers, and Education Director Adva Chattler for enabling us to offer Hebrew School online.  Parents, please check your e-mail for updates.  We welcome new families and students!  Please e-mail for more information.  Thanks again!

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Access the Reconstructionist Daily Prayerbook

The Reconstructionist movement has made its prayerbook available online to our community, so that members and guests can participate more easily in online services.

Members are welcome to download the prayerbook by logging in at the top of this website, and then refreshing this page, which will enable you to access the appropriate link.

Click here to buy the Daily Prayerbook (Limot Hol) at

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Memo from our President, Lynn Cashell

To: Congregation Beth Israel

From: Lynn Cashell (President), Rabbi Linda Potemken, Rabbi Nathan Martin, Dr. Dina Jacobs (Board Member)

Date: March 12, 2020

Friends, we have been working hard to take the best possible actions in light of the current coronavirus situation. The Executive Committee, in consultation with Dr. Dina Jacobs, a BOD member and a physician at the University of Pennsylvania, has made several decisions. We have done so in order to protect not only our community but the wider community as well by trying to help slow the rate of virus transmission. This is a time to think broadly, to do our best to take care of ourselves and others and to heed the advice of experts.

These actions are not taken lightly and are made with humility. We pray for the best possible outcomes. Our plan integrates advice on how to stay separate in order to be safe, but includes how we can come together to nourish ourselves spiritually and emotionally in a time of crisis.

This policy will be in effect for the next 4 to 6 weeks, effective immediately, to be re-evaluated on a daily basis. We may alter this plan if circumstances change. Many health agencies and other sources are recommending social distancing as a way to limit the spread of this virus. This means limiting contact in groups so that the virus is not passed on to others who may be at higher risk.

We believe the BI community has a responsibility to take care of the wider community and those who are more vulnerable. As practitioners of Tikkun Olam it is our duty to advocate for others and act responsibly with public health concerns in mind. We recognize that some in our community may feel this is too conservative an approach, but we wish to proceed with an abundance of caution. The more we limit the spread of the virus early on, the better equipped our health care system will be to care for those who may become more ill and require hospitalization. This is our way of stepping up as a community to take care of the well-being of others.

To be clear, this should not be a cause for panic, as these measures are being undertaken in a preventive fashion; most who contract the virus will recover completely. It is the vulnerable few whom we need to protect.

At the end of the day, the Beth Israel Community should be able to stand back and say with pride that we did our very best as a community to slow down the spread of this virus to protect others; the most pure form of Tikkun Olam. Public distancing is our strongest medical tool right now to slow the spread of this virus. If we all engage in this mitzvah together, we have the ability to do this.

We are asking for your very best efforts on this; please refer to the CDC website for the most up-to-date information. Please carefully wash and dry your hands and avoid touching your face. Please stay at home even if you have a mild cold. Therefore, we are making the following schedule changes and policy recommendations:

This weekend (March 14 and March 15, 2020):

  1. Tot Shabbat will be canceled
  2. 7:30 Friday Shabbat Service with Rabbi Nathan will be held via Zoom
  3. 9:45 a.m. Shabbat Service with Rabbi Nathan will be held via Zoom
  4. The Torah of Now program on “schools and racism” will be rescheduled for a future date
  • For now, we will not hold meetings or events in person with more than three people.
  • All events that can be moved to Zoom, will be moved to Zoom, including all Shabbat Services, Hebrew School classes, adult education classes, committee and board meetings.
  • Events that cannot be held by Zoom, such as Tot Shabbat, rummage sale, movie night will be postponed or rescheduled.
  • The Board's March 18 meeting will be held via Zoom.
  • Hebrew School will not be held at BI on March 22 or March 29. We will explore online options and get back to you.
  • The Marple Newtown Community Band will not be able to rehearse each Monday evening for the next 4 weeks.
  • Additionally, we are working on alternate plans so our community can continue to support each other. Rabbi Linda and Rabbi Nathan will be offering additional learning online that will be helpful with regard to the current situation.
  • We are looking to schedule a community wide Zoom meeting to answer questions and to inaugurate this temporary congregational practice. We will do our best and strive to learn and grow through this crisis. In the meantime, should you have any pastoral needs, please do not hesitate to reach out to your rabbis!

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Zoom Instructions and Tips

To set up and use Zoom, here are some quick tips:

When you click on the Zoom link, your computer or device will prompt you to download/install Zoom. You can use your web browser or the Zoom app (see "Getting Started" below for more information).  Please share your name, so that you can participate more easily.  You can also just dial the phone number instead of using the Zoom app.

If you're familiar with Zoom

We recommend that you use the audio/video capabilities.  You'll be able to see, hear, and participate with, the rabbi or individual leading the service or meeting.  Make sure to mute your microphone to avoid interruptions and distractions during services/meetings.

If you want to keep it simple, use the phone

Technology can be a mixed blessing.  We want to use it to keep our community safe, but it shouldn't be a barrier to participation.  You can always use the phone number for the Zoom meeting to participate in Shabbat services and other events. Make sure to mute your microphone to avoid interruptions and distractions during services/meetings.

Sharing in Shabbat Services

Rabbi Linda and Rabbi Nathan will use Zoom's video capabilities.  During a discussion, you can "raise your hand" in the app by selecting the Participants icon, and choosing the "raise hand" icon next to your name or phone number (click here for Zoom's instructions).  You can also mute your microphone in this window.  Please test the Zoom app before Shabbat services, to ensure that your microphone/speakers/video work properly.  We welcome you to enable your device's video camera if you wish, especially during a discussion.

Getting Started

Zoom's Getting Started Page
For mobile devices

We recommend installing the Zoom app for iOS or the Zoom app for Android.

- Zoom instructions for iOS

- Zoom instructions for Android

For computers

- Zoom instructions for PC and Mac

- Zoom instructions for Chromebooks

Participating in Zoom Meetings (raise your hand, etc.)

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Thu, November 30 2023 17 Kislev 5784