Dear Readers

September 2, 2021

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Dear Readers,

A recent JTA piece by Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein began, “Over the past year, I have led efforts to teach, guide and coach rabbis and other clergy of every Jewish denomination. We have worked with over 500 individual members of the clergy, serving hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“So, let me say this to my dear clergy colleagues: As we celebrate another High Holiday season under the shadow of the pandemic, I know that there is nothing you need more than support in making (or when prevented from making) impossible decisions about vaccinations, masks, social distancing, and the integrity of worship.

“Which is why I am baffled as to why some would add to your burden with irresponsible, pain-inducing criticism that could only worsen the challenge, trauma, and moral injury that our clergy are experiencing at this moment.”

Rabbi Epstein currently serves on the faculty at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and is executive director of the Center for Rabbinic Innovation, where she teaches Jewish clergy of all denominations, so she’s probably heard plenty of stories from across the nation.

Last year, I was deeply involved with making decisions for the High Holidays for my congregation, so I know well the stress. This year, from my perch as Jewish News editor, I see what our local congregations continue to grapple with…laboring over plans and then making last-minute changes. It’s not easy—weighing tradition against the latest health and safety recommendations.

As we begin the High Holidays, please consider Rabbi Epstein’s observations and instead of criticizing, express appreciation to our congregations’ clergy, staff, and lay leaders who are working overtime to keep everyone safe this season—managing expectations, altering plans, creating new prayer options—all while attempting to provide spiritual, meaningful, and beautiful services.

During uncertain times, one of the best proven remedies to combat the cycle of anxiety is to express gratitude. So, let’s make ourselves feel better (if motivation is needed) and say thank you to everyone involved for their dedication to making our entrance into 5782, the safest, healthiest, and happiest possible. Thank you all!

L’Shanah Tovah,

Terri Denison

Editor

Letter to the Editor