Religious groups find ways to stay connected during social distancing


In a time of social distancing, Congregation Beth Shalom Rabbi Justin Kerber encourages all members of his synagogue to stay connected.

“We are encouraging everyone to make two or three calls a week to make sure nobody falls through the cracks,” Kerber said. “Not everyone is getting the social contact that they need.”

CIC COM 0421 Religious Groups

Beth Shalom President Beth Lande has been making her share of calls to the Carmel congregation.

“I’ve tried to reach out to as many congregants (as I can), especially ones that are living alone or have health issues to make sure they are OK,” Lande said.

Kerber said Zoom services that began March 14 have gotten a little better each time and more people have joined. In addition, the services are streamed live on Beth Shalom’s Facebook page.

“We had a bat mitzvah, and she read from the book and her family joined,” Kerber said. “It was a big moment for the family and the congregation.”

Lande said she has reached out through Reform Judaism women’s organizations to connect with smaller congregations.

“We want to make sure these congregations that don’t have the people to do Zoom might want to connect,” she said.

Like Beth Shalom, the Al Salam Foundation Mosque also has been using Zoom for services.

Al Salam Foundation Board President Waqar Mahmud, M.D., said the group is practicing social distancing diligently.

“But since it began, we are in touch with the congregation and the community at large,” Mahmud said. “We are using quite effectively the Zoom technology and have reinstated pretty much all our educational programs. We had our admin meetings on Zoom and we are looking forward to (adding) more programs for the community.”

Former Al Salam board member Wafa’ Safi-Hassan said teen youth group meetings and the Women’s Study Circles have continued via Zoom or Google.

“Per request of the youth, we are holding more Zoom meetings than we normally do,” Safi-Hassan said. “This is a format that we are not used to as we are very social people and love congregating at the mosque. We are like extended family to one another, so this is a big adjustment. We have many psychologists and psychiatrists in our community who have extended their help to anyone who needs it.

“We also have made our congregation aware of organizations that offer their services for free over the phone or online and where they can remain anonymous, if they prefer.”

Safi-Hassan said Al Salam has sent meals to workers on the front lines at Methodist Hospital.

“In addition to that, some of our congregants are making masks for the hospitals that are requesting them,” Safi-Hassan said. “Some of our youth are participating in writing letters for the residents in participating nursing homes. We have many in our congregation who volunteer for various food banks to package food on-site, and in some cases deliver food and supplies to the homes of those who are disabled or cannot leave their homes.”