The President’s Pen, July 2020

I hope this finds you and your family well. I wanted to update you on what has been going on while the building has been closed.

When we made the initial decision to close the building, we had no idea how long the situation would last. Our plans, such as the annual Congregational Retreat and our big fundraiser, the Spring Concert, were cancelled. With our building closed, we adjusted and moved Shabbat services, classes, and the religious school went online, as well as funerals, B’nai Mitzvot, weddings, etc. Being social animals, all of this goes against our nature to gather in person.

So what has been happening at our synagogue building? Marlon has been working hard to keep the building, clean, safe and ready to reopen at a future time. To prepare to reopen the building, we have established a Re-Opening Task Force. This team, which includes representation from Board Members, lay people, and also legal and medical professionals, is looking at how we can best prepare for coming back into the building safely. We are following the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidelines and watching what is happening in those states that are opening up ahead of Illinois. When we do reopen, we will be following the rules that the IDPH establishes. Each individual must then decide, for themselves, if they feel comfortable and safe going into a building with others. Those are individual decisions.

We have also formed a team to create a Leadership Development Seminar for those moving into leadership roles in our congregation. It is expected that the class will be ready by the end of October. It is being developed as a 12-hour block of instruction running over six months.

In mid-June we had a security audit conducted by JUF’s Security Director. He recommended several items to improve the facility to better protect our congregants and the building. These recommendations and how to effectively implement them are being reviewed. This is not a one-year project. Because of budgetary constraints, the improvements may take place over several years.

Finally, how are we going to handle the High Holidays which begin in 10 weeks? Recently, the number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing again. We do not know how high this may go or when it will stabilize and fall. With so much unknown, we are planning for virtual services for the High Holidays. It will not be like it has been in our lifetime or in the lifetimes of our parents or grandparents. The 1918 Flu Pandemic may be the closest comparable event in our nation. We will be informed by the guidelines the IDPH puts out. More information will be provided when it is available.

One of the challenges that the congregation is facing is an estimated revenue shortfall of 30% for the 2020-2021 budget. We applied for and received a loan (Federal) under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). These monies enabled us to cover a major portion of our expected revenue shortfall. We borrowed about $121k. This loan has benefited us by providing additional funds as we move forward. The loan itself is forgivable. We are working to insure that our building is ready when we reopen, and that the synagogue is on a sound financial footing.

Thank you for your continuing support of our congregation and community. When this crisis is over, we will still be here to serve and support the Jewish community in the western suburbs.

Michael J Sawyer
cec.president@congetzchaim.org