Photo: Congregation Kesser Israel
As the world continues to vaccinate and look toward the future after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orthodox Union, the nation’s oldest and largest umbrella organization for the North American Orthodox Jewish community, convened executive directors from 55 North American synagogues to begin to gear up for the re-opening of full community and synagogue activities.
They discussed the challenges brought upon by the pandemic as well as how their communities, rabbis and youth program leaders were able to provide innovative programming in ways that ensured the safety of their membership and met the needs of those with particularly high risks, such as the elderly.
The group also delved into the economic impact the pandemic had on their shuls’ revenue streams, like large simchas and other fundraisers as well as the hopes that the vaccine administration will help their synagogues and congregants eventually return to normal operations, and events in the near future.
The executive directors come from more than 55 U.S. synagogues across California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia participated in the virtual confab. The Canadian contingent joined from a handful of shuls in Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto. Executives from Congregation Kesser Israel in Portland attended.
“Once it was safe to do so, our shuls began to slowly re-open in line with local health, government and halachic guidance,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer. “With limited in-person attendance as mandated by each state’s unique situation, these synagogues had to rapidly pivot to address their communities’ needs as well as the economic impact the pandemic had on their members and how it would affect the synagogues future participation and stability.”
“As we look to the near future, and hopefully a period of successful and expedited vaccine administration, many of our shuls are left contemplating what’s next and how to resume their pre-COVID19 normal operations once it’s safe to do so,” said OU Synagogue & Community Services Long Island and Queens Regional Director Yehuda Friedman “It’s inspiring to see how these executive directors rose to the challenges of the moment and keep forging along during this tumultuous time.”
Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs. For more information, visit www.ou.org.