Fifteen months into the pandemic, and like all organizations, Congregation Beth Ahabah has adapted to a virtual world.
An army of volunteers has made multiple rounds of check-in phone calls and delivered nearly 2,000 High Holiday Day, Chanukah, and Purim/Passover At Home Kits. Tot Shabbat, Torah and Talmud Study still thrived in a Zoom environment.
Religious School Successful
Religious school successfully completed its annual cycle in Google Classrooms with the heroic efforts of our dedicated and endlessly creative teachers, one logging in from Germany each week. We learned, prayed, and still celebrated together- once we all learned to mute and unmute.
We learned some valuable new things that will stay with us. Lifecycle events such as weddings and B’nei Mitzvah, though limited to only a handful of celebrants, live-streamed reached guests and relatives around the world. Livestreamed Shabbat services, we learned were appreciated by out-of-town members, and others who have had trouble with in-person attendance, and will continue even as in-person services begin to resume in June.
In the interest of making the Religious school curriculum easily virtually accessible, we wrote and published our own whole school curriculum focused on weekly Torah portions, Middot, Hebrew Prayer and Israel, and were thrilled to find the students were avid and thoughtful Torah and ethics scholars. We have now developed our own five-year cycle of whole school, text-centered curricula and are busy writing next years.
We still celebrated. We learned together and lit candles nightly as congregation at Chanukah. One hundred thirty families joined the virtual Second Night Seder. At Purim, a dozen wonderful, costumed congregants filmed themselves reading portions of the Megillah which was crafted into a hilarious video for the service, and our Spiel Team still delivered community-wide and congregational interactive Purim Spiels on Zoom.
On May 8, we hosted an in-person movie night, outside in our courtyard. Attendees remarked on how wonderful and strange it felt to be in a group once again. And this Shavuot, two classes were confirmed, the 2020 class whose service was postponed last spring, and the new 2021 class.
These teens still came together to learn and prepare, and then to confirm their commitment to Judaism and publicly attest to its importance in their lives – on Zoom – in front of the congregation, and joined by relatives and friends from far and near. Their virtual class photographs will join 119 others in the first floor Religious School corridor. These photos will look different from the others because this year was different from the others.