Every day we are getting closer to putting Covid-19 behind us. Our Reopening Task Force continues to meet and update our procedures as new guidelines are issued by Governor Murphy. More people are attending services in-person in our large Sanctuary/Social Hall space and there is still plenty of room. We look forward to more changes in the months ahead.

We were thrilled to host a vaccine clinic at Beth El in conjunction with Penn Medicine. In a two-hour period,95 shots were administered. It was a good feeling to be able to provide this resource to our broader community. Thank you to Nicole Ostrowsky-Fabisch, our Vice President of Administration, for serving as the liaison with Penn Medicine and to the other volunteers who assisted with the clinic. This clinic was truly a Kiddush HaShem – a sanctification of God’s name.

June is a month of transition in many places and at Beth El, too. On Friday, June 18th during our 6pm services, we will have an opportunity to thank Skip Berman for his two years of service as President of our congregation and to welcome Brian Albert as our new president. It has been a real pleasure for me to work with Skip during these past two years. Skip was the right person to serve as president during these Covid-19 times. He is smart, thoughtful, calm and always sees the big picture. Thank you, Skip, for leading us during these challenging times.  We are grateful for all of your efforts. Thank you to Skip’s wife, Laurie, for sharing Skip with us. I know that Skip will continue to be an important part of the Beth El Board of Trustees after his term ends.

Brian Albert has served as our Executive Vice President for the last two years and for four years as our Ritual/Education Vice President. Brian has led the Search Committees for the clergy whom we have hired during these past few years, has organized the livestreaming of our services and coordinated our security guards. When there is a task that needs to get done, Brian makes it happen quickly. It is also wonderful that Brian attends services regularly on Friday and Shabbat and Sunday mornings, serves as Gabbai, reads Torah and leads services. I have enjoyed working with him over the years and look forward to collaborating with him in his new role. Thank you to Brian’s wife, Celeste, and children, Reina and Stewart, for being such an important part of Beth El and for lending Brian to us. Best wishes to Brian for a successful term as president.

Thank you to those officers and trustees who are completing their terms, whose who are continuing and those who are joining the Board of Trustees. Your time, hard work and commitment to Beth El are an inspiration to all of us. Please join us as we thank these leaders on Friday, June 18th.

We had a wonderful turnout for our first outdoor service of the season on Friday, May 21st. In June we have two outside services scheduled. On Friday, June 11th at 6pm we will host Shabbat on the Lake in Robbinsville and on Friday, June 25th at 6pm ABC Shabbat will take place at Beth El. Please bring your family, friends and prospective members for what is always a great way to welcome in Shabbat.

Speaking of transitions, on Saturday, June 12th during the 9am service, we will honor those who graduated from college this year at our College Grads Ceremony. We cannot wait to hear what schools our college graduates completed and what they will be doing after graduation. Beth El blessings will also be offered to this group.

On Saturday, June 27th, the three-week mourning period between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av begins. It was on the 17th of Tammuz that the walls of Jerusalem were broken through by the Babylonians and on Tisha B’Av, the two Temples were destroyed in 586 BCE and 70 CE. The 17th of Tammuz is a fast day which begins at dawn and ends after dark and Tisha B’Av is a full fast that begins the night before as it does on Yom Kippur. During this three-week period, weddings do not take place and live music is not listened to. This is a sad period on the Jewish calendar because it represents the end of the Temple period which is an important part of Jewish history. Although we do not view animal sacrifices in a favorable way today, it was the way our people worshipped God in Temple times. The destruction of the Second Temple led to the beginning of Rabbinic Judaism which guides our Jewish observance today. As we mourn the destruction of the Temple during this period, we are also grateful that Jerusalem is today the undivided and eternal capital of the State of Israel. We have the chance to visit Jerusalem and enjoy this magnificent city. We say at the conclusion of Yom Kippur and at the Pesach Seder, “Next year in Jerusalem.” May this truly come to fruition.

—Rabbi Jay M. Kornsgold