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Covid-19 mitigation

Statement from Amy Young, Beit Am President and the Beit Am Board of Directors:      June 18, 2020

This week marks three months over which Beit Am has taken proactive steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Although the building has been closed to the public during this time, Beit Am remains very much open for business. Our members and staff demonstrated amazing resourcefulness and creativity by pivoting in mid-March to offer a nearly-full schedule of online services, finish the Beit Midrash school year, observe festivals, celebrate a bat mitzvah, transition to a new board, maintain administrative and building operations, and perform countless other functions and mitzvot that define the Beit Am community. 

In recent weeks, Oregon has transitioned from stay-at-home orders to a phased system which enables more businesses to open and people to resume some activities. Beit Am has continued to offer only remote programming, consistent with the practices of the majority of Jewish communities in the US and our neighbors in the Corvallis faith community. This caution honors the principle of pikuach nefesh, the preservation of human life, which Jewish tradition prioritizes above nearly all else. Maintaining our physical distance, even as many of us long for a deeper connection, allows our members who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 to stay engaged with Beit Am and protect public health by reducing opportunities to transmit the virus. 

Beit Am leadership recognizes that online services and programs are an imperfect solution and there are inherent inequities in peoples’ internet access and comfort using technology. We also acknowledge that the public health emergency of COVID-19 and associated distancing measures are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The board has begun to explore options for resuming some types of in-person activities in the coming months. These discussions are proceeding under the assumption that most or all programs and services would continue to have a virtual component to meet the needs of members who are unable to attend in-person and promote physical distancing at Beit Am. 

The board discussed in-person resumption at length during our monthly meeting last week (over Zoom). At this time, the board does not recommend any changes to the building closure instituted in March by the board and executive committee. This is in consideration of a number of factors, particularly the recent increases of COVID-19 cases in Oregon and the Governor’s announcement that statewide reopening applications will be paused. In a time when frontline workers and traditionally-underserved populations are disproportionately experiencing the impacts of COVID-19, we feel it is most consistent with our values as a Jewish community to refrain from in-person gatherings. 

The board and Beit Am leadership are still looking forward to a time when it is more advisable to gather in person for prayer, learning, and fellowship. We are developing a framework for what in-person Beit Am programming could look like under the current state and local reopening guidelines, including utilizing our beautiful outdoor spaces. This will be a complex process that considers cleaning protocols, optimizing spaces to promote distancing, structure of services and rituals, and many more questions. As is our custom at Beit Am, honoring the needs and concerns of our diverse community will be a top priority. Since it is nearly certain that the need for distancing will extend into the Fall, we are also actively planning to adapt High Holidays services and programs to provide a meaningful experience to those attending in-person and from their homes. 

As Rabbi Phil has reiterated in messages to the community and from the (virtual) bimah, staying home to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is a matter of religious duty. We are responsible for one another as members of klal yisrael, the community of Israel, and for the community we live in as Americans. Although our hearts grow sick from time spent apart, we should draw strength from the knowledge that we are behaving in accordance with our deeply held values - that life is precious, and that protecting life is essential.  

We welcome your creative and innovative ideas for enhancing connections between members of our community during this difficult time. If you can dream it up, we’re with you to help make it happen.  

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Be well,

Amy Young (President), and the Beit Am Board

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