We are all living through a major historical event and this is a record, a Haggadah of our time, of how our Washington state Jewish organizations have responded.
Haggadah loosely translates to TELLING. These are your individual stories. Learn how individual Washington Jewish people and families are responding here.
The bonds which connect us as a society are changing, but our Jewish values provide a framework for us to persevere.
Spokane Area Jewish Family Service
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Spokane Area Jewish Family Services has worked to provide individuals and families in need with nonperishable items from our food bank and help with rent and bills through our direct financial assistance program. We have created virtual programs to help seniors in the community feel less isolated, and we have used reassurance phone calls and phone or Zoom visits and consultations with clients to help them meet their psychological, emotional, and practical, everyday needs. SAJFS established a community free classifieds service that people can use to donate or receive used items in good condition. The agency has coordinated no-contact pickup and delivery and has ensured donor and recipient anonymity throughout. We have witnessed many mitzvot; perhaps the most memorable are the amazing shows of support for our May 2020 virtual fundraiser and our upcoming virtual Jewish film festival (scheduled for March 2021).
I am my agency’s only staff member, so I am used to working alone in an office. I have attempted to remain connected with clients via phone and Zoom and have done minimal client transportation, observing safety protocols on the occasions I do so. I have also made sure donations to our food bank and delivery to food bank clients are no-contact.
SAJFS has nearly eliminated in-person client visits and consultations except in unusual circumstances (and in those cases we observe safety protocols); transformed our monthly senior luncheons and occasional PJ Library programs for kids 12 and under into virtual programs; and adapted our annual Jewish film festival to a virtual format as well.
- Neal Schindler
American Jewish Committee (Seattle)
Rabbi James and Julie Mirel lead the Zoom Seder for the Seattle Chapter of the American Jewish Committee during the COVID19 isolation on April 9, 2020. Over 100 people ‘attended’ by the internet.
Rabbi Mirel of Bet Chaverim led virtual shabbat services online, March 27, 2020.
Our congregation is determined to protect our family in all ways possible. At the same time, we are encouraging our members to maintain relationships by Facebook, email, telephone and FaceTime.
Our plans changed but we are determined to go ahead with the education goals that we have set. We have our class dates. With the assistance of our computer savvy members, the classes are going to be held on line. We are excited to proceed with classes as planned.
We hope and pray everyone you know and love stays in good health.
This will be a time to remember for decades to come-I know we will emerge stronger as individuals and a community.
- Rabbi Mirel.
Chabad of Magnolia
Rabbi Shnai Levitin leading the weekly torah class, Parsha On Tap, virtually with members of the community on March 26, 2020.
Chabad of Shoreline
At Chabad of Shoreline, we set up a Covid19 relief website to facilitate support and volunteer opportunities to anyone who’s seeking to help and to help those that need help in any way.
Here’s the link- https://www.chabadofshoreline.org/templates/section_cdo/aid/4685684/jewish/COVID-19-Support-Efforts.htm
Additionally, with Passover around the corner with no way for many to attend a community Seder, leaving many to have to make their own Pesach Seders at home for the very first time (a potentially overwhelming experience), we delivered many DIY (Do It Yourself) Seder kits that included the necessary Pesach Seder items and foods with easy instructions and a detailed guide of how to make your own Seder. We also created a webpage on our website with tons of Pesach in quarantine resources- https://www.chabadofshoreline.org/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/4323189/jewish/Passover-at-Chabad.htm
Cong. Beth Shalom
Community email update sent Nov. 18, 2020:
From the Congregation Beth Shalom COVID Committee
As most of you know, Governor Inslee issued new regulations in response to the rising cases of COVID19 in Washington State. In addition, we have been in touch with the King County Public Health Officer in charge of faith-based organizations. Based on the new restrictions and the King County recommendations, the COVID committee is implementing the following changes:
1) Services will be limited to 50 people (we are permitted to have up to 150 people; however, out of an abundance of caution, we are choosing to keep the numbers small)
2) We are removing some of the chairs so all pods will be at least 10 feet apart. Again, this is beyond the 6 feet required but we are being extra-cautious.
3) Communal singing, even masked, is no longer allowed by Governor Inslee. This does not actually change our policy since we had not been allowing communal singing.
4) Per King County guidelines, everyone, including service leaders, must remain masked at all times.
5) It is highly recommended that people bring their own Kippot, Tallitot, Siddurim and Humashim. For people who don't have their own Siddur and Humash, we will provide ones labeled with your name that you will leave on a table in the sanctuary and reuse each time you attend services.
6) We were planning on hosting an outdoor Hanukkah program that we unfortunately will have to cancel given the cap of 5 people on outdoors socializing. There will still be opportunities to celebrate Hanukkah together on Zoom, as well as a drive-through sufganiyot (jelly donut) opportunity! (stay tuned)
7) No indoor social programs and no outdoor social programs of more than 5 people will be held for the foreseeable future.
Thank you for your understanding,
The COVID Committee
Ezra Bessaroth has moved to maintain as normal a schedule as possible while doing so entirely on-line.
To my Dear Ezra Bessaroth Family -
As you are aware, due to the Covid-19 health crisis, we have made the difficult decision to close our facilities at this time. This agonizing decision has meant we are not able to come together physically to pray, to mourn, to celebrate and specifically to wish a speedy recovery and Refeuah Shelemah to the sick.
Yet we are not deterred. For the first time, we opened our doors virtually to the entire community. We have services 7 days a week where the mourners can say the Kaddish. We have weekly Perasha class with Rabbi Benzaquen and inspiring guest lectures. We have Meldados and a special service for the sick every Wednesday night. We have welcomed back our community members from all over the country. We find comfort in seeing familiar faces and making light conversation. We find silver linings at every turn.
We look forward to the day we are all together. I firmly believe we will persevere and return from this crisis stronger than ever. You have our support, and even at a distance, our thoughts and our hearts are with you. May Ha’Shem(protect us all and give us the strength to withstand the difficulties that we each may face in the time ahead. May our prayers serve as a zechut (merit) for those who are ill and to ward off this pandemic.
Dear Hadassah Members,
We are all of us carrying around so much uncertainty every day. I could no longer put off making the difficult decision about our Gala Fundraiser. When I put the question to a vote at our recent virtual Board Meeting—whether to keep, postpone, or cancel the Gala Fundraiser— the decision was overwhelmingly to postpone it until next spring. No one knows what the future will bring, but our Gala is always such a simcha for the entire community that it will have a better chance to be that joyful celebration if we wait. Thank you for putting your trust in us.
In light of the pandemic, long-time Hadassah life member, Joy Pocasangre, wrote me “The best part …is that Hadassah Hospitals are fully functioning. We can be proud of what Hadassah has given Israel and the world.” And Rhoda Smolow, our new National President shares, “we can once again stand proudly to say that our hospital is stepping up to offer what no other hospital can, a separate building, our iconic round building, to house patients suffering with COVID-19.” For full Message, click here
A Happy and Healthy Passover,
Hebrew Free Loan Association
Covid-19 has affected our Jewish community both financially and emotionally. The Hebrew Free Loan Association (HFLA) has responded to both those crises by offering cash assistance in the form of interest-free loans to individuals facing financial hardship, thus alleviating the stress of "how am I going to take care of my children, and pay my bills," and by providing the immediate financial support individuals need.
In response to the crisis, our board immediately immediately responded by reducing barriers for those in immediate stress. The board created a new assistance program that offered loans of $750 and eliminated the requirement for having guarantors. Additionally, HFLA supports deferred repayments and repayment dates for families that currently have outstanding loans and are struggling.
HFLA has been able to provide loans to restaurants, families with children, and those who have been furloughed. We are finding that as the world is opening up, and people have to move on with their lives, the crisis is getting more intense. People need funds to resume life. Hebrew Free Loan Association of Washington State is here to support our local Jewish community meet their financial obligations, until they are able to do so on their own.
Hillel at the University of Washington
"Seders To Go," With the campus closed for rest of the school year and the need for social distancing and the Governor's Stay Home order issued 03-23-2020, Hillel at the University of Washington offers kosher for Pesach meals to go.
Jewish Family Service Seattle
Jewish Family Services of Seattle partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle to host an online community wide learning sessions called "Finding Our Voices: Communicating in Times of Loneliness & Isolation." The presentation focused on the Passover Haggadah and the act of telling stories and staying connected and was led by Beth Huppin, Director of Project Kavod/Dignity at Jewish Family Service, and Rabbi Samuel Klein, Director of Jewish Engagement, Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
The first remote learning session received more than 150 individual participants who shared comments and asked questions using the chat feature in Zoom.
Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle-March 2020
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle provided a virtual townhall on March 25, 2020 to discuss and promote various ways of developing and maintaining community during times of physical separation.
Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle-May 31, 2020
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is saddened and outraged by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, earlier this week in Minneapolis. A white law enforcement officer held his knee to Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes. Floyd gasped for air and repeatedly pleaded for his life while three other officers did nothing.
We protest George Floyd’s tragic death, yet one more in a seemingly endless string of violence perpetrated against black people in our country today. We must also remember, protest, and say the names of the other victims of recent senseless killings:
- Dreasjon (Sean) Reed, a 21-year-old from Indianapolis who died after being shot at least eight times by a police officer (May 6, 2020).
- Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old who was shot eight times by Louisville Metro Police Department officers who entered her apartment while serving a "no-knock warrant" (March 13, 2020).
- Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old and who, while jogging, was chased down, shot, and killed by a retired police officer and his son in Brunswick, Georgia (Feb. 23, 2020).
Judaism is clear about our obligation to not stand idly by in the face of injustice. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “In a free society, only some may be guilty but all are responsible.” Peaceful and lawful protest shines a light on the injustice whereas violent protest only causes harm and must be strongly condemned. We must redouble our efforts to combat racial bias and violence, the structural and systemic racism that continues to deprive black Americans of justice and equal opportunity, and the apathy that allows too many to turn a blind eye.
The Jewish Federation is proud to advocate for racial equity in our criminal justice, education, and human services systems. We will strive to raise up the voices and center the experiences of people of color, including Jews of color, in this work. We do this to stand in solidarity with those who are marginalized, and to honor those who stand tall and are resilient in the face of oppression. We ask the whole of the Jewish community to join with us.
In Judaism, through the value of B’Tselem Elokim, we are called to see and protect the life and dignity of every person. Our job will not be done until the mothers and fathers of black and brown children across our country are treated justly and equitably, and until these parents have peace of mind that their children can run, play, and work in safety and freedom.
#JusticeforFloyd #ICantBreathe #TikkunOlam #PrayWithYourFeet
- Nancy B. Greer, Federation's President & CEO
Congregation Kol Ami (Vancouver WA)
Congregation Kol Ami Vancouver Washington always has a communal second night seder. One of the highlights is always Chad Gadya where different people (kids and adults) volunteer to come to the front and make the sound of one of the characters. This year, because of the requirement to stay separated, members sent in videos of themselves ahead of time, which we put together into our Epic Chad Gadya movie.
To watch the video, close this pop-up and navigate to the video section further down the page.
The Samis Foundation
The son of Ariel Lapson, Program Officer for The Samis Foundation, engages in distance learning from home.
The Samis Foundation gives to the Jewish communities of Washington State and Israel, supporting Jewish day schools, overnight summer camps, teen Israel experiences, youth enrichment and engagement programs and initiatives in Israel. Samis responded to COVID-19 with immediate actions including financial and emotional support to community partners and the Jewish community.
In a first step, the foundation offered $10,000 to support technology needs for seven of Seattle’s Jewish day schools as they pivoted to virtual learning. In an effort to better understand how foundation grantees were adjusting their operations and serving their constituents, and to provide reassurance and address initial concerns, foundation staff personally contacted each grantee via email, phone and zoom and sent letters outlining supportive measures taken to ease grantee stress and reaffirm the foundation’s commitment to their work.
To address emergent financial needs, in particular for at-risk populations, Foundation trustees authorized an initial set of emergency and disaster relief grants totaling more than $100,000 to local organizations in Seattle, Israel and internationally. The foundation is proud to continue supporting our partners and the Jewish community as we witness astounding levels of creativity, innovation and collaboration under unprecedented circumstances.
Stroum Jewish Community Center
The Stroum Jewish Community Center launched "Virtual SJCC" to provide the community with classes and activities from personal training to book reading and arts and crafts as well as maintaining a list of available Jewish themed media from around the internet.
Temple Beth Am
Temple Beth Am provided a Zoom streamed kabbalat shabbat on March 20, 2020.
Temple B'nai Torah
Temple B'nai Torah streamed their Kabbalat shabbat services with the siddur as a slideshow on March 20, 2020.
Temple Beth El
Photo of Temple Beth El hosting a virtual Shabbat gathering over Zoom through Facebook.
The Four Children in the time of COVID19
The four children of the Passover seder provide us with a paradigm for reflecting on four responses to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Those who are wise ask: “What is the best way that we can respond to COVID19?
To them we respond, “We look to the scientists and experts to guide us in our response to COVID19 and follow the directives issued by government officials to shelter in place, practice social distancing, and wash our hands.
Those who are wicked ask: What is this hoax that you have unleashed upon us?
By dividing between “you” and “us” those who are wicked ignore the fact that we are all in this together. By calling this pandemic a hoax, those who are wicked have encouraged many to ignore the serious warnings and not follow the guidelines of experts. They have violated the commandment, “You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind” (Leviticus 19:14).
Those who are simple ask: What is this?
To them we respond with the basic information about COVID19 and the important precautions we should all take to prevent its spread, the most important of which is shelter in place.
And to those who are unable to ask, who are so overwhelmed by it all, we must begin by acknowledging how difficult this situation is for all of us and that we are all in this together.
Those who are wise, those who are wicked, those who are simple and those who are unable to ask are all in it together. COVID19 does not distinguish between those who are wise and those who are wicked, between those who are simple and those who are not able to ask; it does not make a distinction based upon gender or age or religious or ethnic identity or between rich and poor, citizen and non-citizen. We may each ask different questions, each react in different ways, but we are all in it together.
- Rabbi Kadden
Temple Beth Hatfiloh
Temple Beth Hatfiloh and Rabbi Seth Goldstein are conducting streaming Shabbat Services beginning with kabbalat shabbat March 20, 2020.
Temple De Hirsch Sinai
Rabbi Daniel Weiner and Chava Mirel prepare to lead a Kabbalat Shabbat service to an empty sanctuary, but vibrant online congregation.
The Temple De Hirsch Sinai community responded to the current crisis in timely, substantive and inspiring ways. We moved to streamed Shabbat services early on, garnering High Holiday numbers of "attendees." Through the diligent work of our Ed Team, we moved Religion School and Hebrew School online. Within the first week, the Board, our Caring Community Committee, and a growing army of volunteers reached out to the most vulnerable and isolated within our community, and informal gatherings of Temple members generated affirming opportunities to connect. Even our Jennifer Rosen Meade Preschool found unique ways for multiple daily check-ins and experiences for our young families. At a paradoxical time in which there was an acute need for community, but constraints against physical meeting, our Temple family forged impactful and enduring bonds of faith, care and blessing.
Chanukah - Stroum Jewish Community Center
"Let’s Light Up Hanukkah” Video Series (December 10 - December 17)The SJCC encouraged community to "tune in at 4 pm every night of Hanukkah to hear how our community is spreading light this season. In our “Let’s Light Up Hanukkah” video series, our community reflects on where they found light in their lives this past year and how they’re going to spread light in the coming year."
Note that the video link for each night is available in after each description and can be copy/pasted into your browser to watch.
Night 1: Happy Hanukkah! For the first day of Hanukkah, Stephanie, Joel and Amy introduce the series and talk how our community, YOU, have brought light in 2020. (https://youtu.be/VlDmjy4t9D8)
Night 2: This is the second day of "Let's Light Up Hanukkah" video series in which our community reflects on where they found light in their lives this past year and how they're going to spread light in the coming year. (https://youtu.be/FOuxZAALhQo)
Night 3: For this third day of Hanukkah, some of our ECS students tell us what was good in 2020 and what they hope for in 2021. Don't miss this one. (https://youtu.be/5Cn58LMTUYM)
Night 4: For this fourth day of Hanukkah, members of our Board of Directors share where they found light in 2020 - through family, song and, of course, the J. (https://youtu.be/u4F7uFyIKFI)
Night 5: On this fifth day of Hanukkah, more of our GIFT participants and their families share that their light in 2020 was friends and family. (https://youtu.be/2rAicvFqqFs)
Night 6: For this sixth day of Hanukkah, J-Cation Fall campers and counselors share where they found light in 2020 and what they are looking forward to in 2021 (hint: no COVID and in-person schooling came up a couple times). (https://youtu.be/KcsZ0x-0VUg)
Night 7: On this, the seventh day of Hanukkah, families throughout the SJCC community share the light in their lives. You all are definitely the light of ours! (https://youtu.be/OI276MfYzJI)
Night 8: On the final day of Hanukkah, SJCC staff members share the many ways they found light in 2020 and hopes for more in 2021. And for all of us at the J, we thank our J community for being at the core of our light. Thank you. This is the final video of our "Let's Light Up Hanukkah" video series in which our community reflects on where they found light in their lives this past year and how they're going to spread light in the coming year. (https://youtu.be/LSv-VLkvpSU)
The participating community members responded to one or more of the following questions:
Prompt 1: What brought light into your life in 2020?
If you choose to answer this prompt, start your video with, “In 2020 …”
Prompt 2: What light do you look forward to in 2021? OR How do you look forward to spreading light in 2021?
If you choose to answer this prompt, start your video with, “In 2021 … ”
Prompt 3: Share a poem, saying, or song that inspires you to spread light.
If you choose to answer this prompt, start your video with the name of the poem (if applicable) and the author. Example: “The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost [then begin the saying or poem]”
Washington State Jewish Historical Society is dedicated to discovering, preserving, and disseminating the history of the Jews of Washington state and promotes interest in and knowledge of the life, history, and culture of the Jewish people and communities through publications, exhibits, displays, speakers, tours, and performance.