Updated April 23 at 5:30 p.m., to reflect the most current information for the Aaron Family JCC.
By Sharon Wisch-Ray
As we enter week three of coping with the COVID-19 crisis, Jewish agencies, synagogues and schools continue to fulfill their missions and deliver services to their stakeholders.
Here are some updates to some of the organizations and some others not previously mentioned.
Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas
The Federation convened the The Health Crisis Management Team March 10. The HCMT meets via teleconference three times a week. It is made up of leadership from the Aaron Family JCC (CEO Artie Allen); Community Home for Adults Inc. (CEO Lisa Brodsky); Jewish Family Service (CEO Cathy Barker); Legacy Senior Communities (CEO Melissa Orth); the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas (President Rabbi Michael Kushnick); the Orthodox Synagogue Association (Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum); the Jewish day schools/high schools and youth groups represented by the Center for Jewish Education (Executive Director Rabbi Mordechai Harris); and staff of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas including President and CEO Mariam Shpein Feist, COO Gary Wolff, Director of Community Security Bill Humphrey, JCRC Executive Director Anita Zusman Eddy, Director of Global and Local Impact and Allocations Sarah Golman and Marketing Director Jamie Moore.
“This situation has brought out the best in leadership, said Mariam Shpeen Feist, president and CEO of the Federation. “It’s amazing to see how people are encouraging each other, supporting each other and sharing resources.”
On Friday, the Federation sent out a needs assessment to 70 Jewish nonprofits to identify their needs amid the COVID-19 crisis. By Monday, the Federation had received more than 50 responses. The Federation professional and lay leadership are analyzing the data to see how best to respond and fulfill those needs.
If you know of a person or family in need due to COVID-19, please visit the Federation’s website, to fill out an intake form to help get them services. There is also a help line (214-615-5241) available from 9 to 5 Monday through Thursday and Fridays from 9 to 3.
The Aaron Family JCC
The Aaron Family Jewish Community Center will remain closed until further notice, but the virtual JCC is open.
The JCC continues to provide frozen kosher senior meals for pickup on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12-1 p.m. In order to facilitate seniors leaving their homes less frequently, additional meals are given on all three days the JCC is open for pickup. Those wishing to come pickup meals are asked to leave a message with their name, phone number, and day they intend to come at 214-239-7149. The JCC continues to act in partnership with Jewish Family Services to supply their Kosher Frozen Meal Home Delivery program with kosher and kosher for Passover meals throughout the crisis.
Meira Naor, Dallas Kosher executive director tells the TJP that Taste of the World Catering and Meat Point Restaraunt have added Passover food options.
“This was a difficult decision with our limited staff and Pesach as our most busiest time helping the community but Dallas Kosher made the decision to accommodate all caterers and restaurants have an opportunity to service the community during this unprecedented times,” Naor said. DK will also supervise the Hillel Passover Kitchen at UT Austin.
On March 22, Dallas Kosher issued extensive guidelines to its mashgichem, who work in food service establishments as well as its rabbis who visit multiple facilities. Most of the guidelines follow CDC recommendations. Additional guidelines include putting on a new pair of gloves before entering any restaurant bakery, caterer or food service facility and washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds when they leave the facility or when they get back to their car using Clorox wipes or antibacterial soap. In addition, all airplane travel to outside accounts and agencies have been canceled and non-critical visits to any DK facility or outside account are temporarily suspended.
Jewish Family Service
Jewish Family service continues to meet the needs of its clients. As social distancing continues, JFS staff and volunteer drivers have worked hard to ensure all new and existing Kosher Home Delivered Meals received their nutritious meals. With an eye on minimal contact, volunteers drove an estimated 132 miles to deliver 206 meals in the past week. This opportunity is also a chance to check in on recipients and make sure these community members what they need.
JFS partners with the Aaron Family JCC to provide these meals. For questions about the JFS volunteer program, reach out to Lyz Worlein, KHDM and volunteer coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need help getting food, please call the JFS intake line at 972 437 9950, ext.340.
North Texas’ 30-plus synagogues continue to find creative ways to engage their members and the larger Jewish community through online classes and services on multiple platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Zoom and Streamspot among others (links for these are curated at tjpnews.com. Passover is top of mind as rabbis of all streams recognize that families will celebrate Passover differently this year. One issue that all rabbis are stressing is the importance of maintaining social distancing even though the draw to be with extended family is strong. The overarching theme in Judaism is pikuach nefesh, saving a life above all else. Rabbi Brian Zimmerman, who leads Fort Worth’s Reform Beth-El Congregation, said that despite the disappointment of not being able to be with all loved ones for Passover, technology has helped to bridge social distance.
“We live in a glorious time. Amid all of our challenges, social media, the internet and other forms have left us with hundreds and hundreds of videos, online Haggadot, ways to connect, to see one another. If you join with other people you might be making them sick and the blood of another might be on your hands. While there’s no replacement for one on one social interaction we can fight some of that isolation. I pray that my fellow Jews will heed the advice of our tradition, hard as it is.”
In a message to his congregants Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Fort Worth’s Conservative synagogue Ahavath Sholom adds,
“Limit the seder to your immediate nuclear family. Do not invite other family, friends or anyone who does not live in your home. Do not invite parents or grandparents. This sounds antithetical to Jewish values, but today it is a holy obligation. We must assume every person could be carrying the virus and just not have symptoms. They could give you the virus, or you could give it to them. It feels like the right thing to do is to have parents and grandparents over, but you will be putting them at risk for serious illness or, God forbid, death. Instead, set a laptop on your table and connect to them via video call. If you do not know how, contact the office and we will guide you.”
Bloom suggests being creative when it comes to the seder plate and meal.
“Use substitutes wherever necessary rather than taking risks. It is permissible to use a roasted beet as a symbol of the Passover sacrifice on the Seder plate in place of the shank bone. If you cannot find horseradish, romaine lettuce, endive, dandelion greens, chicory and scallions also qualify. If you cannot get kosher meat without going into a small crowded store, make your Seder dairy or serve fish.”
Orthodox Jews observe more stringent rules and using electronic media on Yom Tov or Shabbat is not an option. On Tuesday, rabbis of all DATA shuls, Ohev Shalom, Ohr Hatorah, Shaare Tefilla, Sephardic Torah Center and Toras Chaim sent a joint email to their congregants outlining acceptable practice.
In addition to keeping seders to nuclear families and those who currently live in the home, the rabbis reiterated that minyans of any kind are unacceptable. “… every major halachic authority today has declared these minyanim prohibited as a matter of Jewish law, and local authorities have declared them illegal. Participating in them endangers the lives of others, causes a chillul Hashem and also renders one poreish min hatzibbur, one who separates from the practices of the community,” they wrote. “Those who organize or participate in such unauthorized minyanim will not be welcome in our shuls once we return to them, may it be soon,” they concluded.
The rabbis recommend setting up a Zoom gathering before Yom Tov starts.
“The tragic irony of Pesach this year is that the intergenerational nature of our community, which is such a cornerstone of this holiday, is the very factor that spreads the disease so rapidly. To fulfill halachic directives regarding pikuach nefesh but still fulfill vehigadeta levincha, the requirement of intergenerational telling of the Exodus, it is critical that grandparents, parents and children still interact. We recommend virtual family Zoom gatherings on Erev Pesach after Chatzot , which has the halachic status of a quasi Yom Tov, with everyone dressed in their Yom Tov finery, sharing words of Torah and singing Pesach songs together. This should be done earlier if there is a more significant time difference between yourself and your loved ones and it is not Yom Tov in either location. This will create fond Pesach memories, engender a great deal of nachas and still allow for the optimal halachic observance of Pesach itself.”
Questions regarding best Pesach practices for you and your family, should be directed to your synagogue’s rabbinical staff.