Today is May 31, 2020 -

Congregation Beth Israel

A spiritual oasis for the Jewish community

6 Dundee Park
Andover, MA 01810

(978) 474-0540

The Leadership’s Corner


From Caren Jacobson

In this time of Corona, when we worry for each other’s health and safety, when we feel isolated and lonely, we are being stretched as humans and Jews in ways we have never experienced in our life time. Never hug? Never touch? Never Kiss? This is not us. We are a people of huggers and keeping this distance is very difficult and somehow “Unnatural”. And yet to save ourselves and our loved ones around us this is how we must behave. We are fortunate to have the technology to bring us together if only in 2D but it feels pretty real. We still can see each other’s smile and hear their laughter and listen to each other’s words.

At CBI we continue to have weekly Shabbat services thanks to Rabbi Mandell and Jeff Tye along with the support of Jon Brody and Roberta Hantgan. On Passover we had sevices the first 2 days and the last day. Though we may be small, we are full. We even have guests joining from as far as Grand Rapids Michigan. Amazing they can come out and back in moments and never even have to leave their home! That’s a miracle.

We also began weekly schmooze time on Sunday evening. It is a time to be together and visit one another. Have a drink together, say a “L’Chaiim”, talk about the latest book or movie or the world at large. People bring exotic backgrounds that you can believe they are enjoying themselves down in the Caribbean or perhaps up on the moon, the sky is the limit or is it?

The Yom HaShoa commemoration was launched by Lester Macklin. He distributed nearly 100 yellow yahrzeit candles and in appreciation CBI received over a thousand dollars from 22 participants. We still expect more participation.
On Yom HaShoa over 50 of us came together to remember the 6 million Jews who perished. Together we lit our yellow yahrzeit candle and recited a meditation to not forget. From the book, “Remembering for Life” we read the words of survivors, who even in such harrowing times could appreciate and be grateful for moments of joy.

In May we are planning a teaching on Sunday May 3rd of the Mitzvah of visiting the sick or Bikkur Cholim. Rabbi Mandell will share with us through his experience the meaning of this Mitzvah. Please join us for this teaching in the comfort of your living room or wherever you may be.

On Thursday evening, May 21st Join us for a book review of “Backpack Bear and Eight Crates of Vodka” by Lev Golinkin feel uplifted by this family’s determination to escape from oppression.

CBI or the “Little Shull that Could”, may be small in numbers but powerful in spirit thanks to each and everyone’s energy and participation.

Best wishes to all, as we count the Omer and look forward to Shavuot,
Caren Jacobson

From Jonathan Brody

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
It is the spring of 2020, the season of Covid-19 and not much has changed in a hundred and fifty years! As each of you are still hunkered down in your homes, and will be for the foreseeable future, we scratch our heads at the incredulity of the situation we find ourselves in …. in the year 2020. Who would have thought that this could ever happen? Something that likely started with a bat in a province on the other side of the world could have a profound impact on every living being in the world in less than 3 months.

Yet, like most negative situations, one can find a silver lining. A way to turn a bad situation into something positive and if you look around or follow the news, you can hear about those touching stories every single day. Here are a few relevant examples that come to mind.

We just finished the wonderful festival of Pesach and hopefully each of you found a way to have or participate in a Seder to fulfill the mitzvah of retelling the story of our Exodus out of Egypt. Seders are a big thing at my house. I spend countless hours trying to come up with a theme, reading through dozens of Hagaddahs and then preparing the materials to try to make it a memorable and interesting event each of the two nights. While I am doing this, Ellen is doing the same thing with regard to planning the menu and cooking the food, in preparation for the 10-15 people we typically have to our home each night. Heading into mid-March, I was still of the mindset that we could have a Seder at home, like normal, with 10 or so guests. But as the Seder dates got closer, it was clear that was not going to happen. What to do, what to do? Then the concept of a Zoom or Virtual Seder started to circulate and I jumped on the bandwagon. However, I was determined not to water down and do a simple online version of the Seder. I was going to do my regular Seder that I had planned, just do it remotely. One silver lining, of course, was that Ellen wouldn’t have to cook for 10 people (although she ended up cooking enough for 15 and I’ve got the yummy leftovers that will last for quite a while!). The more important silver lining is that we had a Seder with people joining us from Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Connecticut, New York and, of course, Massachusetts. We haven’t had a Seder with my brother’s family from Pennsylvania in 12 years. Who would have thought it was possible? They enjoyed it so much they want to do it again next year, which will be a challenge if we have a table full of ‘live’ people in addition to all the technology that took up half our dining table this year! A nice challenge to have. Definitely one of the most memorable Seders I have ever led. It’s going to be tough to top.

My next example just took place last night and many of you were part of it. CBI had a Yom HaShoah program, virtual style. Each year, we have a program planned by our own Lester Macklin, the Rabbi, Amy and Caren Jacobson, Chair of the Programming Committee. I thank them all for their hard work each year on putting these programs together. This year, we were planning to host a wonderful speaker (he will be rescheduled to next year) to lead us in what I am sure would have been a wonderful evening. However, if we had done that, on a regular Monday night, how many people would have actually come to our shul to attend? Maybe 25 to 30. A very good number for an event for us. However, last night we had over 50 people participating in the program thru Zoom. Clearly, Zoom allows us to reach out to those we often can’t reach out to. In addition, no one had to drive or commute which would have made a one-hour event into a two- hour evening for some, and we didn’t incur any cost for the program. Finally, and most importantly, Caren designed the program with Rabbi Mandell, and incorporated poignant readings from “Remembering for Life” a book that came to life due to Sherman Jacobson’s values and vision (Caren’s father, of blessed memory). There are several copies of this book on the CBI bookshelf for your future review.

Take a deep breath and seek out the positive stories that surround us and embrace the special moments that we can create. Look at all the people donating their time to help strangers get through the difficult times and retirees and pre-graduates coming together and putting themselves out on the front lines to serve their community. Make the most of the quality time you get to spend with your children and family that would never have happened if Covid-19 didn’t interrupt our normal hectic world. Enjoy solving the age-old mystery of, what does your dog do all day long when you are normally at work?!

Yes, thousands of people are dying from this horrible disease, but at the same time deaths from all other categories are at record lows, and crime is at the lowest it has been in decades. Admittedly, our economy is struggling and tens of thousands of jobs will be lost, but people will reinvent themselves, new businesses that we never knew we needed will start popping up, and at some point the stock market will be back where it was and peoples’ retirement assets will be restored.

I hope and pray that each of you are healthy, but perhaps more importantly, that you can find a way to look for that silver lining. I hope this situation allows you to slow down your hectic life, spend quality time with your family and clean out that closet you have been promising to do for ten years.

As we pass from Pesach to Shavuot, we count the 49 days of the Omer. Kabbalists [mystics] saw the Omer period as a preparation for receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. Each day we must take one more step away from the impurities of Egypt that have remained within us. Today, counting the Omer can be a time of meditation where we can renew our spirits as we prepare for Shavuot and the next stage of our journey.

I ask this of you. Turn “6 Degrees of Separation” into 6 feet of separation, but don’t let that stop you from making the most of this historic time in your life and make that journey a positive one.

For the CBI Board