As the pandemic rages on the negative financial and operational effects on important community institutions grows more acute with every day that passes. Our schools and synagogues have been especially hard hit by the operational limitations required in a Covid-19 world. They are struggling to service their constituencies in a relevant and effective manner. Additionally, their regular sources of income have been undermined and compromised The impending new school year and High Holidays represent challenges to the very survival of these critically important institutions.
Two examples are sufficient to underscore the threats facing our (and many other) communities. First, governmental directives prohibiting private schools from conducting in person classes in the fall has sent shock waves through our educational institutions many of which were planning to begin with in school programs. Second, the restrictions on public gatherings and and particularly religious services means that a large segment of the community will not only continue to be unable to attend regular services but even more significantly, will be unable to attend High Holiday services. Each of these challenges represent not only short term operational and financial obstacles but more importantly threaten the continued relevance of and very existence of our schools and synagogues.
These challenges are real and will not disappear any time soon. The question is how will we respond? Will we take a short term personal view and make individual decisions accordingly? Or will we take a long term broader view and act boldly to preserve the long term future of our institutions? In considering our response we must acknowledge that the pandemic does not allow for easy answers or simple solutions. To the contrary, every decision is met with contradictions and opposing interests. To over simplify – what is good for public health is bad for the economy. Limiting the health risks in a school environment creates material educational challenges. Observing the limits on the number of worshipers at a service necessarily excludes the majority of synagogue members. There are no perfect answers in a pandemic.
But I submit there is a clear choice. We can and must act boldly, courageously, and unselfishly to preserve our institutions. We must join forces as a community, keep our children enrolled in our schools, pay tuition, and support our educators to make the remote educational platform as successful as possible. We must help those households in financial distress and those which require devices or bandwidth. Synagogue members should continue to purchase High Holiday seats and make annual contributions as they would normally do even though they may be unable to attend services.
In short, we need to quickly come together and protect and sustain our community institutions for the day after the pandemic.