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Shabbat Services Online

Message from the Clergy 4/29/20:

Starting on Shabbat, May 1-2, CAI will be running Shabbat services on Zoom.


First, and most importantly, we hope that you are well. We miss being together and we miss the normal rhythms that define our personal lives and the life of the community. 

The value of protecting human life [Pikuach Nefesh] is of paramount concern in Jewish thought. It was with that value in mind and in accord with NJ law that we closed our building and have continued to encourage members of our community to observe the social distancing guidelines recommended by health professionals in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope you will reach out to a member of our clergy when there is an additional way we can support you – prayers for healing, spiritual or emotional support, or practical needs like shopping or groceries. We’re here for you.

When we first decided to close the building and recreated our community online, we immediately sought to produce online opportunities for our members to continue to pray, learn, and stay connected to one another. Our motto was and remains “social distancing – yes; social isolation – never.”

At the time, we didn’t know how long this period would last and so we made the determination that we would provide weekday prayer services (morning and evening) via Zoom and pre-record Shabbat and Yom Tov services, but not offer live online services at those sacred times.

One of the hallmarks of Shabbat and Yom Tov observance is refraining from certain kinds of technology that define our otherwise task-oriented lives. As we now realize that this period will persist for some while longer, we felt it necessary to reconsider our approach. Beginning this Shabbat, we will now offer live Zoom Shabbat and Yom Tov services, even while striving to do this in the most sensitive way possible. 

In recent weeks, the Jewish community has had to contend with questions of ritual observance and Jewish life in a whole new way. For example, prior to Covid-19, the Conservative movement has upheld the principle that a minyan (quorum) cannot be established online to say Mourners’ Kaddish, but that ten Jewish adults need to be physically present in the same space. Others could join an established minyan by calling in or using video conferencing technologies, but physical presence was required for a group of 10.

However, the exigencies of the moment have demanded that we make accommodations ⏤ especially as we wish to provide a way for mourners to grieve and heal when some of the “normal” ways in which we extend comfort are not available. So we have permitted the recitation of mourners kaddish with a group of ten online for this time.

Similarly, in preparation for Passover, leniencies in the law were highlighted as a way to enable people to observe the holiday in a time when certain food may not be as readily available. The main Jewish legal principle that has guided our thinking around these issues is called “sha’at hadehaq” – literally, “an urgent hour.” This principle allows for rare exceptions to general practice when the situation demands. Throughout, we have consulted among our clergy [Rabbis Silverstein and Lucas as well as Cantor Caplan] and made determinations that we felt are appropriate for the spiritual needs of our community under the present circumstances.

While Jewish law is generally slow to change and shows deference to tradition, it is also compassionate and responsive to the needs of people’s lives in adverse times. We believe it is essential to strengthen our communal ties at this time. We don’t know how long this “urgent hour” will persist, but for however long, we are committed to serving the needs of our community and providing spiritual and social connection.

We hope you’ll join us for Zoom services this Shabbat and future Shabbatot and Yom Tov during the COVID-19 period of health restrictions. Below are some guidelines that can help you navigate this issue in the most Shabbat and Yom Tov sensitive manner possible.

With friendship,

Rabbi Alan Silverstein        Rabbi Ari Lucas     


Guidelines from Cantor Caplan


“Oh! Why hadn’t you done this before? Why now?”

We didn’t know a Shabbat-compatible way to use the computer till just now. But we just learned that our contract with Zoom lets us set up meetings that can last 24 hours. We also will hire a non-Jewish tech person to handle any difficulties that might arise. Please note, this is precisely what we do when we have our custodians set the microphones before Shabbat and adjust them when problems arise.

Therefore, as an example, Cantor Caplan plans to click into a meeting called “Shabbat Davening” at, say, 6 pm on Friday night, well before candlelighting. Then he’ll just leave his computer on through Shabbat, without touching it – just like he and Nancy leave certain lights on in their house all through Shabbat. When he wants to see you all, he’ll just step in front of the computer screen.

“Hasn’t CAI already done other services, classes, discussions, etc. using Zoom?”

You bet. We’ve been holding “virtual minyans” on weekday mornings and evenings, for weeks. 

Plus the Sunday late-morning “Renewal” service with Susan Werk and Erica Rabner 

Plus Friday night services (just before Shabbat) and Saturday evening services (just after Shabbat)  

Plus making pre-recorded Shabbat and Yom Tov videos with sermons from the Rabbis and Torah/Haftara readings, which you can click on anytime

Plus lots of classes and other meetings...

But not during Shabbat itself. That’s why this is new.

“Well, why not just keep doing what we’ve been doing?”

First, because Shabbat day and Yom Tov is our main community gathering-time. Now that we know a way to meet then, let’s do it. We will start the Saturday or Yom Tov morning service at 9:30 am each week.

“Are we talking about Shabbat morning only?”

No. Also Friday night Maariv [following the 6 pm Minchah and Kabbalat Shabbat services, as well as Shabbat afternoon Mincha, and special Mincha Bar/Bat Mitzvah services as needed. With Zoom’s 24-hour limit, we’ll hold congregational Mincha at 4 pm each Saturday afternoon. Then Maariv later, at 8:45 pm on Saturday night, as we have been doing.  

“Shabbat morning services are normally a few hours. That’s a long time to look at a computer screen...”

Yes. But hey, no one has to be there the entire time! (Just like in our Sanctuary.)

Even so, we do plan to shorten the Shabbat morning service somewhat.  

For example, we won’t be repeating the Amida, because we won’t be in a minyan physically together.

We will be able to say Mourner’s Kaddish, per Rabbi Silverstein’s ruling. We’ve been doing that in our weekday Virtual Minyanim.

We will be able to read from the Torah, chant the Haftorah, present sermons, and recite the fundamental prayers of Shabbat and Yom Tov.

We will be able to honor yahrzeits, anniversaries, Bnai Mitzvah milestones, and other simchas.

In sum, we are pleased that we can do this! Looking forward to having you join with us Shabbat!

June 26,2022 /  27 Sivan 5782