On Saturday, June 27, Rabbi Natan Trief passed the Torah to Beth Shalom’s incoming rabbi, Rabbi Teri Appleby. Rabbi Teri’s time at Beth Shalom officially starts July 1.
Services will move back online only in the month of July. We are committed to keeping our congregants safe and pausing in-person services is an important step to doing so while coronavirus cases rise again in Louisiana.
If you have already RSVPed for this week’s (July 3-4) services, you will be contacted. If you are not a BSS member, but would like to take part in online services, please call the office.
In the past few weeks, the Advocate ran two articles featuring Beth Shalom. We want to share them our community.
After 75 years, Baton Rouge’s Beth Shalom synagogue will have its first female rabbi
BY GEORGE MORRIS | JUNE 26, 2020
When Beth Shalom Synagogue began 75 years ago in Baton Rouge, women could not be rabbis in North America. When that status changed in 1972, Teri Appleby was at Stanford University with an eye toward law school.
It took a while, but Appleby joined the rabbinate, and she’s about to become the first female rabbi at Beth Shalom.
Appleby, 68, begins her one-year interim rabbi position on July 1, replacing Rabbi Natan Trief.
Two restored Torah scrolls help Beth Shalom celebrate 75 years, return of in-person services
BY GEORGE MORRIS | JUNE 19, 2020
When Beth Shalom Synagogue resumed in-person services June 12, those who attended had extra cause for celebration — two of the synagogue’s Torah scrolls had returned as well.
The scrolls, each older than Beth Shalom itself, had been sent for restoration in January. By the time they were ready, the coronavirus had caused the suspension of public gatherings.
To commemorate its 75th year, Beth Shalom had raised $17,000 to restore the scrolls, which were in need of repair from the wear and tear of use.
After careful consideration by the members of the 75th Anniversary planning committee, we have decided to postpone the events planned for August 21-23, 2020. While this is certainly not what we wanted, we felt that the exciting event would just not have been able to be presented as planned. These events were designed to bring our community together and, given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, we do not feel the weekend could have been carried out safely for everyone who wants to attend.
However, there is so much to look forward to in the coming year! This is a wonderful opportunity to continue the celebration of our congregation and its 75th milestone year. We are now planning to have the weekend-long event for August 13-15, 2021, which coincides with the same Torah portion as planned for this year. Please mark your calendars and plan to arrive as a BSS family from near or far. When it is appropriate to do so, we will also restart our programs and fundraising projects, so be on the lookout for a final schedule soon.
Check out our gorgeous new Tree of Life in our lobby. Created by artist Susan Arnold and her talented team, Beth Shalom congregants worked to arrange and set the multi-colored glass frame surrounding the mural and glass tree during January’s 75th anniversary celebration. The gold leaves from the former Tree of Life were incorporated into the design as an outer frame and inside as leaves on the tree. You can add a permanent mark on Beth Shalom with the purchase of a leaf. Contact the office if you are interested.
This Weekend – Please note an RSVP is required for ALL services. You will be contacted if there’s an issue with your RSVP. For those of you that wish to stay at home we will continue to offer services online. Please contact the office for the link and password.
PLEASE NOTE: Our Torah study Covenant & Conversations will be all-virtual (no in-person option) and will begin at 9am. This will end at 10am, followed by Morning Services (in-person and virtual) at 10:30am.
Friday, June 26
Saturday, June 27
Next Weekend – First Services with Rabbi Teri Appleby
Join us, either virtually or in person, as we welcome our synagogue’s new rabbi. RSVP here.
As many of you know, I spent a few years working at PepsiCo after graduating college in my early 20s. I worked in brand management at their Quaker Oats Division, and spent my first two years assigned to the Aunt Jemima brand. Along with a couple of other employees, I helped manage everything brand-related from the marketing to the budget, to new products, supply chain, and advertising. As the months went on, I became very passionate about the brand and wanted to learn everything I could about it, including the history of the larger-than-life, black woman that donned all of the brand’s packaging. As I searched, I purchased a provocative book that I came across entitled “Slave in a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima.”
I began to learn about the Aunt Jemima image’s association with plantations, slavery, racial stereotypes, and how deeply hurtful it was to so many people. It was a brand that Quaker Oats often had to defend, and the company even gave us talking points to do so. At that point in my life, I felt the company had done right by modernizing the image and addressing the controversies. But then again, I’m not black, and for me it was an intellectual exercise rather than a deeply personal one.
Fast forward fifteen years, and Dr. Riche Richardson of Cornell University wrote this insightful and fascinating essay, bringing added urgency to the matter. And now, five years after that, as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to gain momentum, Quaker Oats came to a bold and courageous decision. Recognizing the deep racial stereotypes of the brand, you have likely heard that Quaker Oats revealed this week that they will remove the Aunt Jemima image altogether, and the brand will be renamed later this year.
I know some people may disagree with me, but I applaud this decision, and see it as one concrete step that Corporate America can take to rectify systemic problems. My hope, however, is that decisions like this one do not sanitize or whitewash history. When history books are written, this brand and its history should be highlighted and elevated as a dynamic transition from racial stereotyping to racial justice. Lest we forget “that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
As we mark Juneteenth today, the date to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved peoples in America, we are mindful of all the ways we continue to perpetuate that abominable institution.
As we mark LGBTQ Pride Month this month of June, we are mindful of all the ways we continue to stymie the inherent freedom in all People, the unique notion upon which this country was founded. I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision this week protecting LGBTQ employees. I applaud Quaker Oats and Pepsico for aligning its products with its values, and standing in real and meaningful solidarity with the Black Community.
This week in the Book of Numbers, Moses sends scouts to inspect the land of Canaan in preparation for the Israelite arrival. He instructs the scouts to bring back a comprehensive report regarding the nature of the land, and to respond to a series of questions regarding the land and her inhabitants.
I wonder, if scouts were to come survey the American landscape right now, what questions would we ask and what would the report be? Is it a land that treats her inhabitants equally? Is it a land that works toward fulfilling its founding principles and values? Is it a land of security for all its inhabitants or violence for some?
These are questions which we all play a role in answering. One slow, step at a time.
May we all continue to align our actions with our values, and may this be a Shabbat of deep reflection and striving for equality.
In these unprecedented times, a strong sense of community is more important than ever before. Our synagogue family will weather this crisis together, and we will find new ways to connect with each other even if it is not in person.
Like so many other houses of worship around the world, we have made the difficult decision to go dark and close the synagogue building to all activities. At this point, as we are all following, it is most important to practice physical distancing, and as a Jewish institution that upholds the sanctity of human life at all costs, we will do our part to ensure public safety. However, as Rabbi Natan mentioned last week, physical distancing does not mean social distancing. We must all find ways to still stay in contact and fulfill the synagogue’s holy mission of enriching Jewish lives.
To that end, Beth Shalom is moving to an all-virtual format. Please follow us on Facebook or sign up for an account if you do not have one. We are able to share so much information, pictures, and resources quickly using this type of social media format.
In this spirit, check out this message from Rabbi Natan and Taylor this morning!
Beginning this Friday night, we will have Kabbalat Shabbat Services, Torah Study, and Shacharit Shabbat online via zoom. They will all take place at their normal times, and will all be led by Rabbi Natan. There will, of course, be some modifications. (You are responsible for your own bagel at home :)), and we will chant from the chumash instead of the actual Torah scroll…to name a few)
Beginning next week, Rabbi Natan will be teaching a zoom class (Topic TBD) and will have virtual Havdala along with Rabbi Sam each Saturday evening
Taylor will be leading an interactive zoom Tot Shabbat for all families (Rayner and synagogue) at 11 a.m. on Friday mornings
Miriam Meetings will also move virtually as well as religious school. The next Miriam Meeting will be next Tuesday, March 24th at 6:30 p.m. More information will follow for religious school.
All virtual meetings, classes, and worship will take place here. We recognize that many people are not familiar with zoom or comfortable with computers. If you know someone who struggles with technology, please reach out to Taylor who will be happy to walk them through it and answer any questions. In addition, we will have a zoom info session this Thursday morning at 10 a.m.
If you would like to borrow a siddur for our online worship, please feel free to stop by the synagogue tomorrow or Wednesday to pick one up from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Taylor will be there to loan them out. If you need one delivered, please continue reading.
Rabbi Natan, Taylor, and our Yachad Caring Committee will be checking in on folks throughout the week(s). Please know that we are always around to chat, to talk, and to exchange some warm words. If you are in a vulnerable population and need assistance with errands, groceries or would like ritual objects delivered to you, please contact Rabbi Natan, Taylor or someone on the Yachad Caring Committee. We are happy to help in a safe way with preventative measures!
Weekly announcements with updated information will be sent each week as usual.The shul will re-evaluate this plan in 3-4 weeks, around April 13th
Stay safe and be in touch. To health and Shalom from your BSS family!
In these challenging times, please know that your Beth Shalom family is here for you. If you have any concerns or questions, contact Rabbi Natan or Taylor at any point.
As we can all see and hear, events are unfolding at a breakneck pace, and the accompanying anxiety is very real. Please do not panic, but be alert and focus on the safety of yourselves and those around you. In that spirit, the synagogue has decided on the following steps:
–As many of you already know, we have decided to cancel Corned Beef Sandwich Sale. Please refer to CBSS-specific email this morning for more details. In addition, the Family Purim event at B’nai this Sunday has been cancelled.
–The shul will be open for Kabbalat Shabbat and Shacharit this evening and tomorrow. There will be no preneg or food served with the exception of pre-sliced challah and kiddush to take place in the sanctuary. If you are in an increased risk group as defined by the CDC, please consider not coming to the synagogue for Services. Regardless, with the exception of immediate family, maintain physical distance from others and observe “spacious seating.”
–We are monitoring the situation closely, and may modify our worship and teaching format moving forward via streaming or zoom. Please be in touch with Taylor if you need any help with computers or technology for this purpose. Otherwise, stay tuned for any decisions regarding this.
–We have made the unfortunate decision of cancelling the 2nd Night Seder for Passover. Please start making other arrangements for this important event. Rabbi Natan and Taylor are already talking about virtual seders to take its place, so stay tuned!
–The Brotherhood Glass Blowing Event on 3/28 has been postponed. As of now, other events are still on, but this is subject to change.
–As we have mentioned before, as you conduct your private and public life, please consider the following safety measures:
-Avoid all unnecessary contact. Refrain from kissing, hugging, and shaking hands. Be warm and welcoming by touching elbows and expressing warmth in words and with your eyes.
-Be mindful of touching your face. We do so more than we think.
-Wash your hands often with soap for 20 seconds (Sing Oseh Shalom 1x). Practice with your children.
-Hand Sanitizer, 60% alcohol-based–anything less is not helpful.
-Stay home if you are sick, observe “spacious seating” and “safe distance” at shul, and refrain from kissing ritual objects.
-As we mentioned, our janitorial service Jani King has implemented enhanced measures for cleaning and sanitation.
In addition, in keeping with the updated guidelines from the CDC and Department of Health, we ask you to follow a self-quarantine of 14 days if:
–You or a member of your immediate family have been in direct contact with someone who has subsequently been diagnosed or is being tested.
–You or a member of your immediate family have traveled to a high risk (Level 3) country (as of this writing: China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy.)
–You present with COVID-19 type symptoms, such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath and have had exposure to family members or close contacts who have traveled to one of the above countries.
As we work to curb the inevitable anxiety, check out these tips for speaking to children about this type of event. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Rabbi Natan, Mark Posner, or Taylor Pettit with any questions or concerns. We appreciate your help to ensure the health and well-being of our Beth Shalom Family.
Shalom u’vracha. The news is dizzying. Our reality is in constant flux. The list of closures and cancellations is staggering. It would be easy to fall prey to the yetzer, our impulse to panic and fear. And yet, we do not. Instead, as we mark this Shabbat, let us take a deep breath and welcome the extra soul that Shabbat gives us so freely.
Please look at the announcements sent out in a separate email this morning for very important information about our shul and ourselves. Below is some information regarding our spiritual selves and some wisdom from the treasure troves of our People’s history to help us navigate this period of uncertainty.
Pikuach Nefesh and Shmirat HaGuf: “Saving a Life and Guarding your Body” Our sacred texts teach us that we can forgo nearly any commandment for the sake of human life. In the context of this pandemic, please know we are making dynamic decisions in order to protect our BSS family. I ask that you please do the same and do not endanger anyone else with your behavior.
Al Tifrosh men ha’Tsibur:”Do not Separate Yourself from the Community.” At first glance, this seems difficult given the need for safe distance now. However, as Rabbi Melinda Panken teaches, we should not practice “social distancing.” Instead, we should practice “physical distancing.” What we need NOW is to be physically separate but socially closer. Indeed, our rabbi-congregational remote arrangement that we have implemented for several years fits this model quite well.
Timche et Zecher Amalek: “Blot out Amalek” In our tradition, Amalek stands as the embodiment of all evil, and especially evil targeting the most vulnerable. As this virus falls in that category, we can blot it out by doing the opposite work of goodness and kindness, and protecting those in need.
Shmirat HaLashon: “Guarding the Tongue” This Jewish value demands that we use words responsibly to elevate, and not destroy. In the context of this pandemic, avoid speculation and unsubstantiated facts so as to not create an environment of hysteria.
V’Hayita Ach Sameach: “And you Shall Be Joyful” Even as we dedicate the utmost gravity and precautions to this situation, let us not overlook the blessings that still abound. (increased time with family or friends, the beauty around us, books, mindfulness, etc)
Nechama: “Comfort.” As the organization with this same name descended on Baton Rouge during the 2016 flood, so too shall we provide comfort and hope to others. In so doing, we become unified. As Natan Sharansky teaches: The power of Jewish unity comes when we feel together with one another, even if we are alone. Never forget that we, the Jewish People, are defined by hope.
Tefila, Teshuva, Tsedaka: “Prayer, Return, Charity/Justice” These three T’s do not only apply to the High Holy Days. In their essence, they apply especially now. Tefilah: Pray for everyone’s health and healing. Speak to God in any way you like. God hears our prayers. Teshuva: Be the best version of yourself. Work on your middot, your soul attributes of gratitude, generosity, and patience. Tsedaka: Give to others. Focus on their well-being. Resist the temptation to close off to the outside world.
In this week’s torah portion, our ancestors succumbed to fear and uncertainty. As they grew unsure as to Moses’ whereabouts, they looked for any possible escape, a false God to whom they could attach themselves. They panicked and behaved irresponsibly, and they provide us a lesson now many years later: to harness the power of uncertainty and control the things that we can control: ourselves, our reactions, and our words.
This will be a disruptive and stressful time for all of us, but we will get through it together as a family. Instead of spreading sickness, we will spread love. Instead of panic, we will remain calm and let the wisdom of our tradition continue to guide us. Please do not hesitate to contact me for any reason. I am here for you all.
I leave you with the words of Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, a prayer: May God who brought a rainbow after the flood with Noah, and who provided a ram to save Isaac on Mount Moriah, and who enabled Esau and Jacob to hug instead of fight, the God who appeared to Moses in a bush and to the Israelite people on Mount Sinai, use miraculous powers and abilities to provide a cloud of glory and safety over all of your creations. Help us navigate through this time of unsteadiness. Be our healer, our rock, our compass and our light. As we stretch our arms and open our hearts, help us feel your presence and grab a hold of our spirit. Bring healing to the afflicted, wisdom to the caretakers and leaders and hope to the worried. May we grow as a people and a community from this painful moment in our story.