Planning for Fall and a Peaceful Shabbat

July 10, 2020

Berkeley Hillel Community,

In this week’s parsha, Pinchas, we conclude the reading of the annual holiday Jewish calendar. It is a reminder of the cyclical nature of our world, the need to have the stability of knowing what season and holiday comes next. This cycle provides us with comfort, meaning, and as humans the ability to live with some stability.

The academic calendar provides the same stability, and at this time each year, Berkeley Hillel begins the detailed planning for the new incoming and returning students. This year, unfortunately, we don’t have the same stability as the calendar and fall semester. As many of you have read, the UC Berkeley campus just experienced a surge of COVID-19 cases coming from several parties of Cal students who are in Berkeley for the summer. It is a reminder to all of us of the importance of taking the risks seriously to uphold the value of pikuach nefesh, saving a life, seriously.

Keeping in mind the current situation and University’s decisions about the fall, the Berkeley Hillel staff, Board of Directors and Student Board are working diligently to fulfill our vision to enrich the lives of Jewish students so they can enrich the Jewish people and the world, while still ensuring the health and safety of everyone in our campus community.

In creating a plan for the fall semester, the Berkeley Hillel leadership will maintain our values of creating a welcoming and pluralistic community in these uncertain times. We are currently working to find ways to maintain the vibrancy of our Jewish community, welcoming the new students and maintain the health of everyone.

As we develop a process for opening the building and offering programs to students, we have created a COVID-19 Task Force made up of board members in the Campus administration, health professionals, and Berkeley Hillel staff. In creating a plan for welcoming students in the fall we will be following all guidelines of the State, County, City, and University health officials. Our goal will be to let the community know about our plans for the fall by the end of this month and at that time we will be holding several Zoom town halls for students and parents to offer greater details for the upcoming year.

This year, our calendar is anything but typical and we yearn for that time of predictability in our seasons. What we can count on each and every week is the anchor of Shabbat. While the days blend from one to the next and the weeks have passed by and we are now counting the months of shelter in places; throughout this upheaval in our lives, we still have Shabbat to keep us grounded. May this Shabbat be filled with rest and provide you with a slice of normalcy in our chaotic world.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman