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March 13, 2020

03/13/2020 05:47:57 PM


March 13, 2020
Adar 17, 5780

To Members of Congregation Adath Jeshurun:

For many years, including this past year, I have taught the piece of Talmud that describes the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago (b. Gittin 55-56). I understand the message of the editors of this piece of Talmud to be that halakhic accommodation in a time of distress is required to prevent catastrophe. Shammai's ruling, literally, brought down the House of God.

I am unsure if we are currently in a similar situation. Issues of transmissibility of Covid-19 in Montgomery County are still unknown. We have Governor Wolf's declaration yesterday to close down places where people gather, and we have information about the purported rate of infection in other places. Given the potential threats, we have decided to close AJ for several weeks beginning after Shabbat services tomorrow morning, March 14.

Nevertheless, the need for community is greater than ever. Thus, we will continue gathering virtually for prayer service. The platform we will be using allows each person to see the other people who are simultaneously logged in. During this time of distress, while our building is closed, we will continue to daven d'varim sh'bkidusha, such as mourner's kaddish, if the prayer leader sees a minyan on screen.  

While there are other emotions that threaten our peace of mind, please allow space for gratitude in recognition that we face Covid-19 together, as a kehillah k'doshah, a holy community. We will deploy the technology we have with compassion to strengthen the bonds among us. We will benefit from millennia of Jewish wisdom that has enabled us to overcome adversity. And we will emerge strengthened with a deepened appreciation for all that makes AJ our Jewish home.

With strength and courage,
Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Shai Cherry

*  *  *

In times of concern and uncertainty, we look to our sacred communities for strength, comfort, and guidance. For the past week, leadership of AJ has discussed and debated the benefit of keeping our building open for minyan and Shabbat services. For a time, continuing to hold services while recommending that those in high-risk categories not attend, seemed like the right decision. The decision was made with the difficult knowledge that a large portion of our beloved community might experience a deep sense of loss while being separated from the congregation. 

As efforts to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 virus continue and additional recommendations are offered, we continue to assess our decisions. Based on updated recommendations, with heavy hearts, we have decided that following services on Shabbat morning, March 14, the building will be closed. No services will be held through Sunday, March 29.

Please know that Rav Shai (215.992.4112) and Hazzan Glantz (215.439.5033) are just a phone call away. Although the building will be closed, all voice mail messages left with the office will be listened to promptly. 

Through the Zoom platform, congregants will be able to attend services virtually. This system should be operational by Sunday. Until then, you may follow services by clicking on this link: CongregationAJ.

Members of the Board of Directors and the AJ Caring Committee will be reaching out and making calls to congregants in the coming days. It is our hope that hearing familiar voices will help members feel connected, cared for and valued by our community. If you are or know of someone who would like a call, please let the office, Naomi Atkins ( or Judy Stutman Izes ( know.  

We will continue to keep you updated via email and the AJ website,

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom.

Rav Shai Cherry, Hazzan Howard Glantz, and AJ President Judy Stutman-Izes

Mon, September 21 2020 3 Tishrei 5781