Rabbi Skolnik’s High Holiday Sermons
5781 is approaching and with it come our hopes and prayers that everyone in our FHJC family and everyone we love will be healthy and safe in the new year. We are living through a devastating period and Covid-19 has hit us all too close to home. Throughout this time, FHJC has been a constant.
The Zoom services and adult learning, the nursery and religious school classes, Zimriyah and Yom HaShoah, Zoom shiva gatherings, support groups, book talks, speakers, and more … they’ve kept us connected, and given hope and meaning to our days. Now, when we are physically separated from it, we recognize how integral a part of our lives FHJC is.
But this pandemic has not left FHJC unscathed. Major income streams from room usage fees, pool and gym rental and after school programs evaporated in an instant. Summer camp programs at FHJC were cancelled. Fundraising events were cancelled. Our longstanding and dear caterer, Beth Torah, has shuttered its doors permanently. Tentative steps towards reopening in-person services and programs are fraught with anxiety and uncertainty.
Yet we remain hopeful that with your support 5781 will be better and FHJC will continue to be here for all of us. Please help us make that hope a reality by supporting our 5781 Kol Nidre campaign to the fullest measure of your generosity.
We wish you all a sweet new year and the blessings of good health, happiness, prosperity and peace.
Letter from Romi Narov, President, July 30, 2020
Dear Members of The Forest Hills Jewish Center,
It has been more than four months since the pandemic forced us out of our spiritual home and changed the way we worship and interact with each other. Thanks to the efforts of Rabbi Skolnik, Hazzan Rosenblum and others, we have continued to function as a virtual community, meeting daily for evening prayer and study, holding Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat services on Zoom, and so much more. Over the past few weeks we have successfully restarted in-person weekday and Shabbat services, exceeding NYC and NYS reopening guidelines and implementing every safety precaution. Our next challenge is planning for the High Holidays.
At this point in the calendar, most of us would have already gotten our HH ickets in anticipation of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. In past years, close to 1000 members and friends filled our sanctuary on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. This, sadly, cannot happen this year. The first step the Reopening Task Force took in planning for the High Holidays was to survey membership to gauge how you feel about attending services in the sanctuary. With the results of this survey and after much deliberation, we set the maximum occupancy of the sanctuary at 150, about 12% of capacity. Additionally, to limit the time we are physically present in the sanctuary, our clergy are hard at work reconstituting the service to shorten it in a halachically correct way.
To facilitate participation by the greatest number of members wishing to participate, we divided the High Holiday into its five component services -First day of Rosh Hashana, Second day of Rosh Hashana, Kol Nidrei eve, morning of Yom Kippur and Neila. We will accommodate every ticket holder for at least two of these segments, more to the extent that the number of tickets sold allows. If this sounds complicated to you, imagine how complicated it feels to us, who will actually have to figure out how to make it work.
As you all must know, ticket sales for the High Holiday and the Kol Nidrei appeal are two of our major fundraising events of the year. COVID 19 has wreaked havoc on our budget and made our financial planning extremely difficult. Every one of our sources of income was significantly impacted. So, as we roll out our ticket sales, we are appealing to every one of you to be a part of ensuring that the FHJC survives this storm and comes out stronger on the other side of it. Having said this, we are well aware that some of our members have also suffered financially as a result of the pandemic. We hope and pray that you also overcome the difficulties brought upon you by this pandemic. We do hope that those of us who can, will help make this a successful fundraising period.
So now to some of the details:
- High Holiday seats will be sold at the same price as last year, $230.
- Seat reservation form is here. The deadline for reservations is August 17.
- Please indicate your preference for services by numbering the options 1-5.
- Social distancing requirements will make it impossible to seat you in your usual seats.
- To accommodate social distancing requirements, we may seat you in the balcony if you are physically capable of walking up the stairs. Please indicate on the form if you are not able to walk up the stairs to the balcony.
- We cannot accomplish this seating challenge unless we know exactly how many people want to attend in person. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, we encourage you to purchase your tickets anyway and your payment will be a donation if you later decide not to attend. Once the deadline has passed, we cannot guarantee seat availability.
- We will Zoom all High Holiday services. Although there will be no charge to participate, we are asking Zoom participants to support the service and the shul by purchasing virtual tickets, even though you will not be sitting in them this year. Please indicate “Virtual Seats” on the form if you do not plan to attend in person.
- For those of you who want to join us on Zoom but are not able to do so because of technical difficulty, please let us know who you are so we can reach out to you with help.
- Members who will not be attending the in-person service and wish to spend some meditative or spiritual time in the sanctuary between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, are invited to call Laurie and schedule a time. These time slots will be reserved for each member or member family individually.
- When you receive the 5781 Kol Nidre appeal, please be as generous as you can.
In conclusion, I believe that together we can weather the storm. It will take everyone’s participation at whatever your limit is. We need to remain united, keep our spirit high and hope and pray that for Rosh Hashana 5782, we will all be together in person, in our spiritual home.
Stay safe and enjoy the rest
of your summer
Romi Narov, President