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We hope you love it! Please let us know what you think. You might see some more changes over the next few days. Thank you for your patience.

Shabbat Morning Services

Of all the qualities that make Congregation Beth Israel feel like family, our Shabbat mornings together—participating in services, leading, reading Torah, singing together, shmoozing—have been integral to our sense of belonging and connection. Due to pandemic restrictions, it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to worship in our synagogue on Shabbat morning as a larger community, and we’re all feeling that loss profoundly. While we’ve shared the High Holy Days and special simchas via live streaming, the experience has simply not met the broader needs of our sacred community.

As restrictions on communal gatherings will undoubtedly intensify in coming months with the pandemic’s surge, we are committed to improving ways to worship together safely. With appreciation to our BI Ritual Committee and a devoted team of volunteers, we will be expanding  our current Zoom prayer offerings to include Shabbat mornings, beginning this weekend. My thinking on Shabbat online worship has evolved as our understanding of halakhic implications has developed, and I am grateful to rabbinic colleagues and to our Ritual Committee and leadership for their valuable feedback.

Beginning on Saturday, November 14, at 10:00 a.m., we will open our virtual doors to interactive online services, via Zoom. While the service will be broadcast from the BI Sanctuary, there will no longer be congregants present, and our minyan will be virtual. This will allow us to create a more personal experience, safely, for more of you, with opportunities to participate from home. Best of all, we’ll be able to see each other again!

Our two-hour, interactive Zoom services will include familiar prayers, Torah reading, D’var or discussions, song and fellowship, ending with a virtual kiddush. As this will be a somewhat condensed version of our traditional Shabbat morning service, some prayers will be eliminated, and we will shift to a triennial cycle for the Torah reading. Once a month, we will offer a creative Shabbat service, when we’ll experiment with different formats.

Beth Israel Weekly Shabbat Morning Services 10:00 a.m. - Noon 
Online Kiddush Shmooze: Noon to 12:30 p.m.
Zoom link is available in weekly emails.

With gratitude for your continuing commitment to our BI community,

Rabbi Aviva Fellman

Halakhic Guidance for Zoom Shabbat

As we join together online, each of us needs to create a Mikdash Me’at, sacred space in our own homes—a model of our sanctuary in our own homes. We will have to turn our living rooms, dens, dining rooms, and offices into sacred space: A space where we can let the sounds and words of the prayers wash over us. A space where we can let the words of the prayers infuse our souls. A space where our voices can rise in prayer with our BI community, connected via a virtual minyan. 

Zoom is the online platform we will be using as we move forward together. Here are some more details about using Zoom on Shabbat and, if you’re new to Zoom, for the first time:

Below we offer broad guidance for Shabbat-appropriate participation in Zoom Shabbat services. Those interested in more technical halakhic detail are encouraged to read Rabbi Joshua Heller’s teshuvah (halakhic opinion), “Streaming Services on Shabbat and Yom Tov.”

Prepare Ahead for Shabbat Zoom Service Participation

We recommend that you prepare ahead for Zoom Shabbat, in order to minimize any chance of accidental violations of halakha. To follow halakha, you will need to turn on your computer before candle-lighting on Friday, and set it up with the Zoom link visible, so that all you need to do is click on the “Join a Meeting” button to enter the service. 

Please Note: The password for the Zoom Service is embedded in the link.

Give some thought to which computer you will designate for Shabbat and where it is located (people will see you and what’s behind you unless you turn off your camera).

The text chat feature will be disabled on Shabbat, because it’s distracting and takes away from the sense of being present as a community.


How to Use Zoom

In the long months since the pandemic began, many of us have learned how to participate in Zoom conference calls. But Zoom can still feel a bit intimidating if you haven’t used it before. Click here to download a PDF with detailed, step-by-step instructions.

CJLS Guidance for Accessing Zoom Shabbat

The following actions are permitted, in accordance with the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards guidance, when accessing Zoom Shabbat:

    •    Clicking links to connect to the Zoom Minyan;
    •    Using internal Zoom features, such as Mute/Unmute and Pin Video;
    •    Switching between Gallery View and Speaker View;
    •    Resizing the Zoom window for comfortable viewing;
    •    Hosts may use breakout rooms and screen sharing as needed;

For those who would prefer not to click links on Shabbat, there are ways to set a computer to automatically open the Zoom connection; Rabbi Joshua Heller offers a few suggestions in Appendix III to his opinion on online Shabbat services. Please see above link.

It will be easiest to participate from a tablet or PC, although the Zoom mobile app enables you to join in, as well.

Prayer and Torah Resources

We hope that a silver lining to our shift to Shabbat morning Zoom worship will be an opportunity for you to build your home Jewish library. We will be using the Lev Shalem siddur, although you will also be able to follow along, for the most part, from the Sim Shalom siddur, as well. For those of you who already own a copy of either siddur, you’re all set! Please note that you may also follow the Torah reading in a chumash of your choice. 
For those who do not have siddurim or chumashim at home, there are three ways for you to follow along with the service:
  1. Purchase a copy of the Lev Shalem siddur from BI, $30 apiece. You may also purchase  Etz Hayim (Torah and Commentary) through BI, $48 apiece. This is a significant discount from list price. Please call the office to reserve your copies. You will receive instructions for how to drop off your check and pick up the text(s) outside the shul.
  2. Download the free PDF of Lev Shalem from the Rabbinical Assembly. Click here.
  3. Download the free PDF of the week’s parsha from the Rabbinical Assembly. Use the same link as in #2. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and select the correct parsha for this week.
  4. Should your situation make purchasing a siddur at cost a hardship, please contact Caroline Aboody or Rabbi Fellman and we will arrange for you to receive a complimentary copy.
Since we will not be reading from the Torah scroll, but, rather, congregants will read selections from the parsha from chumashim, we will be using the following blessing to introduce the Torah service:

A Word About Zoom Etiquette

We don’t know if Miss Manners has published a book, yet, about Zoom etiquette, but our shared experience will be better if we all understand and observe a few common expectations:
  • When you join the Zoom service, your mic will be muted by the Zoom host. If you have an assigned part for the service, the host will unmute your mic at the appropriate time. 
  • Think of this experience as equivalent to coming to shul, and please bring the same respectful attitude that you would if you were in the sanctuary. Please dress and act accordingly if you choose to have your camera on (it’s an option), and remember that others can see you. Save food for the kiddush shmooze after services are over.
  • There will be no chat option in Zoom on Shabbat, because it’s distracting and takes away from the sense of being present as a community.
  • During the kiddush after services, please respect other congregants and do not monopolize the conversation. BYOKL (Bring Your Own Kiddush Lunch)!
BI Zoom Shabbat Morning Services Are a Work In Progress
Our goal is to create a weekly Shabbat morning service that feels inclusive, uplifting, and fulfilling, even within the limitations of our new reality. Your feedback will help us to continue to improve. But first, we ask for your patience as we work through inevitable glitches. We will provide an opportunity for you to offer constructive feedback after our first few weeks of Shabbat mornings, and look forward to hearing from you. 
If you would like to participate in leading or reading Torah for future online Shabbat morning services, please contact Victor Saffrin And watch your BI email for opportunities to sign up for a part. The success of our Shabbat Morning online services depends on everyone’s involvement. 
Tue, March 9 2021 25 Adar 5781