Update Corona Virus- March 11, 2020

Update Corona Virus- March 11, 2020

Temple family,

One of the most fundamental responsibilities that your Board is tasked with is to look out for the best interest of the Temple and its congregants. To this end, we remain in ongoing, daily dialogue regarding the fluid situation surrounding the coronavirus along with the health issues related to the gathering of large groups that may be susceptible and impacted by the spread of this virus. We have been in close contact with leading physicians and health professionals who have authority with this specific issue and have provided us with a variety of recommendations and issues to consider. The executive committee, clergy, and senior staff met to discuss this critical issue, and together we have agreed that the most prudent, cautious, and responsible course of action is to validate and implement the recommendations made by these health care professionals.

Temple Emanu-El will be canceling all elective large group gatherings for the next four weeks.


  • The Temple Gala: We, unfortunately, need to postpone our Diamonds & Denim Gala scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 14th. The amount of work that has gone into the planning of this event, along with the outpouring of congregational support, will ideally transition to a reschedule date at some point before summer. We will gladly keep everyone updated with plans for the amazing silent auction items that have been collected and the fantastic evening that was planned. All existing tickets will certainly be honored for any reschedule-date, and the Temple staff remains available to answer any questions related to financial gifts and sponsorship that may arise. Feel free to contact Brittany Saag with questions, brittany@ourtemple.org
  • Other planned gatherings: We will be canceling our Second night of Seder plans and Sisterhood will be canceling/rescheduling its upcoming Mah Jongg Dinner on March 18th, as well. We have also asked Brotherhood and Sisterhood to reschedule any other elective, large gatherings over the next several weeks until the situation has stabilized, and more updated information can be considered. Torah study and adult education classes will also be canceled during this time.
  • Religious and Sunday School: Religious School, Hebrew School, 7th Grade Teens, and the Teen Foundation will also be canceled for the next four weeks. Spring Break is included in this time, and the week after Spring Break is included as we consider it to be a high-risk due time due to possible travel outside of Birmingham. In addition, School families will receive specific updates regarding return-to-class-dates from Lynda Gutcheon as that information is available.
  • Friday and Saturday Shabbat services: After much deliberation, we are asking our congregants to stay home and not attend services at the Temple for the next several weekends. All Friday night services will continue to take place and will be available in streaming format on-line. As per normal, the Rabbi and Cantor will continue to lead these services from the bimah, say Kaddish and read yahrtzeit lists, and offer a Shabbat worship experience that we encourage our congregants to enjoy ONLINE. The link to our streaming worship service can be found on our Temple homepage http://ourtemple.org/webcast/ or you can follow a LIVE feed from our Temple Facebook page that will connect you with other congregants watching on Facebook.

Complimentary copies of our Temple’s prayer book will be available at the front desk so that you can easily follow along with the service (donations of $25 to our Temple Prayer Book Replacement Fund are gladly accepted.) Additionally, printable versions of the Friday night Shabbat service will also be available on our website.

  • Saturday morning services will not occur due to the absence of a minyan and the resultant inability to read Torah.
  • Discovery School: The Discovery school will remain open and in session for the time being. The same authorities that have encouraged us to avoid the large, elective gatherings that are currently being canceled because they may put elderly, more susceptible individuals at risk, have also advised us that keeping our pre-school open, for the time being, is a reasonable and safe decision. We remain in close dialogue with other schools and learning institutions around the city. If it becomes necessary to reconsider a temporary cancelation of classes, we will provide additional information and updates as they become available. We will be increasing resources aimed at routine cleaning and hygiene protocols to ensure that we are addressing these issues appropriately given the existing circumstances.
  • Bar-Mitzvahs/Weddings/Lifecycle Events: All scheduled life-cycle events will remain on the calendar as scheduled with participants and attendees expected to use appropriate precautions and stay home if they are feeling ill. Additionally, b’nei mitzvah training and private tutorial preparation will continue as normal with our Cantor Gutcheon.

Despite the cancelations noted above, the Temple will be open for routine business and will be staffed as always to address the needs of our congregants. We will anticipate providing additional updates and progress reports regarding this situation as new information is available.

From a leadership perspective, perhaps the only thing more important than fostering opportunities to deepen engagement and involvement amongst our Temple members is the desire to make decisions that look out for the health and well-being of our congregants and those they love. Certainly, each of us is well-aware that Judaism views the sanctity of life above all else.

Please know that these decisions are not taken lightly by anyone involved, and the clergy, leadership and Temple staff are hopeful that this situation will normalize shortly so that we can all resume life together in health and happiness.
We will certainly provide additional updates to the congregation as appropriate and available. Thank you for your understanding of this situation, and please do not hesitate to contact Rabbi Wright, Robin Gotlieb, or myself if we may be of any help in clarifying any of the issues referenced above.


Al Cohn, MD
President, Temple Emanu-El