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2020 RAbbi annual Report

We count multiple years in the Jewish calendar: Rosh Hashanah as the head of the liturgical year, Rosh Hodesh Nissan with the new season of spring, Tu Bishvat and the birthday of the trees, and the more obscure beginning of Elul and the season of teshuvah and repentance. 

This annual report is an accounting of a year that has passed in the life of our beloved JCOGS community. However we have had, I am sure of it, more than one year that has passed. There are at least two years: the one before the coronavirus and the one after.

The one before included many moments of gathering and face-to-face connection:

  • We started last summer with the second visit from Jonathan Golden, PhD, facilitating Hartman Institute based learning on Israel.  
  • We also held our 5k Family Fun Run/Walk, which I survived.
  • Shabbat included many themed evenings, from Musical Shabbats, to Homegrown Shabbat where members help co-lead services, to focusing on disability rights.  The High Holy Days drew hundreds gathered from near and far at JCOGS, to Sukkot on the Farm, and then multiple Hanukkah parties including down in Mad River Valley.  We held an Interfaith Thanksgiving service and snowshoed for “Shoe BiShvat.”
  • Alison and I hosted several times in our home, as we seek to build opportunities for relationship building and community connections.  And eating.  We held a Labo(ur) Day Chillin’ and Grillin’, and a “Friendsgiving” potluck and havdalah with 50 people dancing the hora in our foyer.
  • JCOGS launched some new music with the Sanctuary Sessions, including two videos for Hanukkah and Purim, and a song “Never Say” written for our members Sara and Irwin Tauben after last summer’s glorious Farm Dinner.
  • Members began to meet in each other’s homes for the first gatherings of our Homegrown Judaism: Kibbitz conversations.  It was an opportunity for members to get to know each other, learn what connects each of us to Jewish life, while also considering how each of us can contribute to JCOGS.
  • We touched on current events with hot topics discussions during Torah on Tap, a Lights for Liberty protest on immigration, a march in the Pride Parade, and we supported the work of the Lamoille Community House and the Racial Equity Alliance of Lamoille.
  • Adult education included Torah study, Hebrew classes, The Art of Writing a Sermon, and the Balancing Act of Being a Jewish Parent.  We had a remarkable Shabbaton visit from my mentor Rabbi Rim Meirowitz, and a lovely visit with Ariel Fogelman of Keshet Educational Tours.
  • Our family and youth activities included Kinderlach and Gesher for our young families, Olam Chesed Wednesday program for elementary aged youth, Mitzvah! and our teen program, Ateed.  
  • We also launched a Green Team that is already helping sustainability efforts within and beyond our community.
  • There were babies born, Mitzvah ceremonies and weddings celebrated, and sadly, mourning and loss.

It is bittersweet to think about all of these events and programs, in light of the ‘second year’ that we had, the post-virus year.  Since then:

  • All of our services have gone virtual.  In doing so, our attendance for Friday night’s has, at times, quadrupled.
  • We held our annual second night Passover Seder, among other Passover offerings, with tables set and meaningful connections.
  • We have used online platforms to welcome babies into the world and have performed our first Zoommitzvahs in May and June of this year, offering meaningful life cycles even from a distance.
  • JCOGS led the way in collaborating with Jewish Communities of Vermont, Living Tree Alliance, and the rest of the community in pulling together a rich array of Shavuot programming, bringing people from across the state together over Zoom.
  • Our chesed committee has called each of our members individually at least once, and kept up with congregants who are our first responders and the most vulnerable.
  • Perhaps most importantly in this critical time, we have partnered with United Way to bring more PPE for those on the front lines, and with Capstone Community Action and the local schools to provide cell phones to families in need of online support for their youth.
  • And we are looking into live streaming and long-term technology to help facilitate online services and learning for years to come.

While our first JCOGS Israel trip has been postponed, our programming is still going strong.  What is parallel from the time before and after COVID-19 is that we have shared simchas and sorrows.  We have continued to connect to the greater community in impactful ways.  And we will support those in need as we have always done, now with even greater conviction that community is essential.  We are all essential.

Tihiyu bri’im, may we all be safe and well.

Rabbi David


Wed, July 8 2020 16 Tammuz 5780