COVID update 2-7-2022
Dear CBI Family,
After much deliberation, the Covid Task Force, Rabbi Samuels and myself feel that the Covid surge from Omicron is decreasing. With this in mind, we believe it is time to begin planning the re-opening of our synagogue to services, Kesher and events. As long as the Covid case rates continue to decrease as they have, we plan to open with the following schedule:
  • Saturday, February 19th (after Shabbat) the building will open, still following the Covid policies for attendance. The first event of this new schedule will be the Kulshan Chorus concert, postponed from January, that will now take place at 7 p.m. that evening.
  • Shabbat services in person (and on Zoom) will be on February 25th, and
  • Kesher will resume on February 27th in person.
In addition, based on some newer information, the Task Force and the Board expect to make some minor changes to the Covid policy, and that information will be announced this week.
We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate this ever-changing pattern of pandemic. Our goal of balancing safety, accessibility and socializing will continue with all of you in mind.
Joshua Greenberg, President
Rabbi Joshua Samuels
And the Covid Task Force

COVID Update 1-6-2022
Dear CBI Family,
With the recent surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, and in consultation with the Covid Task Force, we have decided the safest course of action is to revert back to virtual programming for all Beth Israel events. This includes Kesher classes, Shabbat and other worship services, programs, and committee meetings. Also, in collaboration with the Kulshan Chorus, we have made the decision to postpone the January 15th concert to a future date.
Luckily, we have been down this road before, so all those who run classes and services are comfortable transitioning to this virtual model. We hope this will be short-lived and look forward to a follow-up message communicating our re-opening of the building.
There is nothing we love more than worshipping, learning, and celebrating with this fabulous community in person. Thank you for understanding this difficult decision and for continuing to support Jewish life at Beth Israel.
Rabbi Joshua Samuels
Joshua Greenberg, President

COVID Update 8-6-2021

Dear fellow congregants, the COVID Reopening Task Force met on August 3 to determine what would be the best response to the current surge in COVID-19 cases in Whatcom and Skagit Counties.  It has always been our goal to balance the religious, spiritual, and social needs of the congregation with the risks to our members’ and community’s health.  With that in mind it was decided that we would continue with the policy that requires all who are 2 years old or over attending services or events indoors at CBI to wear an appropriate face covering as per CDC guidelines.  In addition, everyone attending indoor services or events who is 12 years old or older must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.  We will no longer be sharing food indoors until conditions improve, and we will continue to have attendees sign in with contact information and will ask everyone who is not feeling well not to attend in person but to join us via Zoom.  We ask that attendees respect others’ desire for social distancing.

These are trying times and we appreciate your patience and understanding.  If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact task force co-chairs Paul Blum and Steve Ban, or President Josh Greenberg.


COVID Update 5-14-2021
Hello, CBI Family!
News about Covid changes day to day, and it is hard to keep up! Early this morning we heard on the local news that Whatcom may be facing a return to Phase 2 because of our high rate of transmission and hospitalization. Then this afternoon, many of us heard, from the CDC no less, that if you are fully immunized, you can stop wearing a mask in most situations, outdoors and indoors. By the time this letter reaches you (or you read it), we will most likely have more news.
What’s a Covid Reopening Task Force to do?
I can tell you that we have been hard at work, under the leadership of Paul Blum RN and Steve Ban MD, developing plans to be as most open and at the same time most safe. It is not an easy job! Balancing the two objectives is a tender thing – and we generally err on the side of safety.
We recently had the Bat Mitzvah of Tahlia Somers at the synagogue as a hybrid affair. There was a modest guest list, and an on-line presence by Zoom, with a TV monitor (thank you, Don Fenbert) so we could all see the remote family and friends who were doing an aliyah or reading from the Torah from home. We had two ushers, and a pre-printed guest list which also served as our contact tracing list. We had excellent ventilation as well. Seating was socially distanced, and we limited bathroom entry to one person at a time. It really went smoothly! Afterwards, Tahlia’s friends from Kesher and their families came by outside the building to wish her well – we got lucky with sunshine at that point.
We have two Bar Mitzvahs coming in June, and will plan to have a similar set-up, unless public health recommendations indicate otherwise.
In just a little over a week, we will have our Annual Meeting – on Zoom. Save the time and date:  May 23rd, 5:00 PM – you will get a link soon! We felt that the timeline is too short to organize a hybrid event, and with the goal of maximizing ease of attendance (we must have a quorum of 25 people), a tele-meeting would be best. Highlights of this Annual Meeting:
•   Eco-friendly, paperless Annual Meeting Booklet sent to your inbox. If you would like a paper copy let Mary know. Jane Relin is compiling the Booklet this year – many thanks, Jane!
•   Election of the Slate of Officers as presented by the Nominating Committee under the leadership of Steven Garfinkle.
•   Slideshow – with music! – of events from the last year. ***WE NEED YOUR HELP*** – please send photos of your Jewish adventures and simchas from the last year to include in the slide show to Melissa Schapiro at ASAP – the deadline is this Sunday, May 16! See the Timbrel for more information.
•   Video of the Kuk Sool Won class, edited by the maestro, Kevin Donner. This is super-fun and energizing!!
•   Photos (or maybe a virtual tour?) of the landscape and synagogue changes.
•   Depending on the weather, we will be hosting an Open Garden earlier in the afternoon for anyone who wants to come by and see the property in its new incarnation.
A few other notes:
Please consider giving a blood donation sometime from now to the end of June in honor of our Kesher Co-Director, Nicky Naiman! She had emergency surgery and is recovering, but it highlights the need for blood donations, and it would be a lovely way to show Nicky our support. I am hoping for 18 donors – or 36? Please click here for details.
The Beit Café was postponed until later this summer, so that we can gather outside (much safer than indoors!) on a warm evening. Watch the Timbrel for this fun event!
Landscape news – we passed our Whatcom County Inspection on April 26th! Now our job is to keep it all alive for the next two years until everything is well-rooted and hardy. During this summer, we will be watering and doing weed mitigation – if you see tall weeds, it is likely because we are timing our efforts to maximize our impact on the weeds by letting them spend root energy on growing but getting rid of them before they flower and set seed. PLEASE DO NOT WEED WITHOUT CHECKING WITH ME FIRST! This is very hard, but there is a method to our madness! We would love to have volunteers for watering! Please contact me or Kevin Donner or Marta Brand to let us know of your interest.
And – Please Stay Off the Baby Grass! Setting a good root system depends on not being trampled. Please let your kids know if you are planning to go up there. Soon, we will be able to relax on this. Keep in mind that we have spent a small fortune making things look beautiful, and we appreciate your help with this.
Back to Covid – I do want to encourage you, as a doctor, a scientist, a daughter, a mother, and someone of a ‘certain age’ with respiratory problems – Please get yourself and your family vaccinated! To paraphrase Greta Thunberg – don’t believe me, believe the science. The vaccines are at least a thousand times safer than getting Covid. They are effective against the variants we have seen in the US. And they are the ticket to getting life back to the way it should be. If you choose to not get vaccinated, we certainly still welcome you as part of the community, but our community is most safe if all of us are immune.
Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected!! Shabbat Shalom!
Miriam Schwartz

COVID Update 3-14-2021

 Finish, Furnish, and Flourish

Dear CBI Family,

As I write, it is Thursday March 11th, late in the afternoon, after a glorious day of sunshine that makes the purple crocuses in my garden stand up straight and practically sing. It is a day of promise and hope for better times coming.

We have some good news about Covid-19! Those families who have been most affected financially will be seeing additional relief from the government. And locally, we are finally seeing some decent numbers of vaccine doses! I have heard so many ways people have accessed vaccine, I can’t keep up. Hopefully, this will get more straightforward and less like playing roulette! We will also be moving into Phase 3 and hopefully Whatcom County will be able to stay in this phase. All reasons for hope.

The work at CBI continues. We are setting our sites on May 23, 2021 – the date of our annual meeting – to be ready to hold a hybrid event, still mainly on-line but with some limited in-person attendance. It remains to be seen exactly how we can accomplish this (the state guidelines will be followed), but it is good to have a goal for which to aim. Even if we are not able to meet, we intend to have what we need to hold hybrid services for Rosh Hashanah, which comes early this year (September 7th!). Paul Blum and Steve Ban are leading the Re-Opening effort and have studied the state requirements for a house of worship. More details later, but keep in mind that this process, at the state level, is in evolution.

A key part of being able to hold hybrid services is having the hardware to do so. David Goldman of the AV Task Force is taking the lead on the Live Streaming Synagogue project. Equipment is being purchased that will allow synagogue services and other events to be live streamed over the internet to improve accessibility for congregants. Great care is being taken to make this as unobtrusive as possible to maintain the spiritual quality of our services. We are also looking forward to modest improvements to the sound quality of the space.

It would not be a communication from me without mentioning the garden progress at CBI! Already, the grounds look much more settled and polished, though the plants are, in general, still rather small. We need to coddle them for a couple of years until they have developed some robust roots, but after that, they should be able to take our weather in stride.

When you return to the synagogue, you will not only see an absence of bare subsoil and voluminous weeds, but you will also see the stately Memorial Garden, and you will be able to see your bricks in their place! You will see new lighting on the far side of the Plaza (the big patio outside the sanctuary and Social Hall) which will allow evening events and increase our security at night by making it harder to see inside from the woods. In the lower level Kesher entrance and play yard, you will see a beautiful area for the Kesher kids, with a clever way for them to do some planting at just their height! You will see new grass and better grading of areas around the perimeter that make our property look better and more secure. Please note – we will need your help to KEEP OFF THE GRASS for this year, so it can get established. Start talking with your kids.

Of course, all this would not be possible without the money to pay for it! BIG THANKS to the Capital Campaign team and our generous MATCH Donor who are making this Campaign possible! Even bigger THANKS to ALL of you who are making this MATCH a success with your donations! The end date of March 31st is just around the corner so please get your donations in soon. GREAT NEWS – You can also make a pledge now to pay off by Dec 31, 2021 and it will count toward the match!  Just let a Capital Campaign team member know what your Pledge is by March 31st. Please contact Mary or me for more details. We can all play a part in making CBI our Jewish home.

One last thing: This part of the Covid saga is strange and uncomfortable in new and different ways than all the strangeness that has gone before. The difficulty getting access to vaccine has created a lot of anxiety for those who want it.  For those who don’t want it, there are other stresses. Some people can’t wait for restrictions to be lifted; others will continue to need the safety that comes with social distancing. We are in flux right now, and the news changes every week, every day. Let us be kind to ourselves and kind to each other in the months ahead, as we all see what comes next. Working together for our community – that is what the CBI Family is all about!

Thanks for reading! Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected!!  Shabbat Shalom!

Miriam Schwartz

COVID-19 Update 10.30.2020
Hello dear CBI Family!
Here we are, seven and a half months into the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state. Tomorrow is Halloween – like so many events, this will be ‘a different kind’ of Halloween. Add it to the different Passover, July 4th, Memorial and Labor Days, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, graduations, birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Days, and all our Shabbats. Halloween is a traditional time of intentionally scaring ourselves a bit (or getting a lot of candy!), but this year, we have had scary stuff almost daily.
Some of us must go out, be in proximity to people, and take our chances with getting Covid-19. Some of us are at high risk, and even the lower risk activities are more fraught with peril. Others have to quarantine at home because the risk is so high that even going to the grocery store carries an unacceptable level of danger. And some people (none of us?) disregard the safety measures that could reduce risk and that is scary for the rest of us.
It is hard to remain vigilant all the time, after this many months. I have headed toward a store entrance, only to realize I don’t have a mask on – and back to the car I go. Outside on a breezy day and 6 feet apart seems safe – or is it always 6 feet? We do the best we can.
The CBI Covid Task Force met yesterday on Zoom and we are making plans for eventually returning to the synagogue. We do not plan to return for services or Kesher until sometime in Phase 3 or Phase 4, and there is no sign of that happening soon. We have a written plan to reduce the risk when we get to Phase 3, though, and we are working to have everything in place in advance. We are actively sourcing the supplies and signage we would need, and figuring out how to organize the people power to make sure we can meet safely and have what we need on hand. We are moving on installing UV devices in the furnaces to kill bacteria and virus in the air, and to find ways to increase air flow, with Kesher rooms a priority since they are so small.
Some things to keep in mind – we have a lot of congregants who are elderly or have medical problems that put them at higher risk. When we do return to the synagogue, we will all have to wear masks for the time being. And, as we should any time we leave home, we will need to be very aware of our own health and risk factors. If you are sick, have a fever, have a household member who has Covid or likely has Covid, stay home.
As I write, the sky is blue, there is a breeze making the colorful leaves wave and dance, and there are still flowers blooming their last effort. There is much of beauty in the world. Don’t forget to look for it.
And for a special treat (no trick!!), click here for some Before and After photos of 751 San Juan Blvd from this season’s work! More to come – plants!!!
Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay connected! Shabbat Shalom!!
Miriam Schwartz
PS – Don’t forget the time change this Sunday. We get an extra hour!

CBI Covid-19 update 8.28.2020
Hello CBI Family! Hopefully this message finds you well and in good spirits.
We almost had an outdoor Shabbat on the Lawn last week! The weather, however, was not helpful at all, so we cancelled. There were some people who were disappointed and some who were glad that they still could attend on Zoom. I was in both camps.
We learned a lot from this experience. First of all, we learned that there is a range of desires and priorities around the issues of meeting in person, even outside. We also learned that the requirements from the Health Department are more than a few easy things. There is signage, marking of social spacing, bathroom monitors to assure proper limits of people, attendance rosters in case we need contact tracing, and decontamination afterwards. People will need to pre-screen themselves with a thermometer before coming or we have a thermometer we can screen with at the door. Masks, of course. OY!!!
And yet, we are moving ahead to make this a possibility. The Covid-19 Task Force met last Sunday and we are figuring out how to make this work in as safe a way as possible.  I can imagine an interim phase where we have some services on-line and some in person, once we get to Phase 3.
What we need to know is where you, the congregants, stand on the spectrum between all on-line and all in person. I am going to be sending out a poll very soon – I know, I said this a while ago, but bear with me, it’s been a busy summer. When it arrives, please take a few minutes to answer the questions and return. This information will help us know where best to aim our efforts.
Another thought I had which relates to Covid has to do with politics and the upcoming election season. Everyone’s nerves are frayed to one extent or another by the pandemic and the social unrest of the times. I’m afraid the upcoming elections will stress us all further. Be assured that there are a variety of political opinions within the CBI family. This is as it should be. The one thing I am afraid we can count on in the election season ahead of us is that there will be an unseemly amount of vitriol and disrespectful language. Please, let’s commit to keeping this out of CBI!!! It makes me so sad to think of members of our CBI family who don’t feel comfortable being members anymore because they feel judged for their political opinions. We have so many things that can bring us together – our Jewish values, our worship services and celebrations, our commitment to Tikkun Olam. We have the High Holy Days ahead of us – let’s foster our commonalities, restore our souls for what lies ahead, and strengthen our bonds of community. And let us be always respectful of another person, if not their opinions.
Next week, I hope to share with you all some pictures of progress!!! Till then, Shabbat Shalom, stay healthy, stay connected, and keep washing your hands!
Miriam Schwartz


Early on in the Covid-19 experience, my heart was warmed by many things: People reaching out to help
others, businesses shifting gears on a dime, efforts to consolidate PPE for first responders. Many more
examples of the world, it seemed, pulling together for the common good.

Now, sadly, it is a less harmonious response. People are trying to scam others out of money by preying
on Covid fears. The latest caution is be very careful about an email that says it is doing contact tracing –
hint: they will not ask for your social security number, nor for money. Masking has been turned into a
political statement when it is not – it is what we can do to protect each other as well as ourselves. This
country’s leaders are using the crisis as a political tool. The world’s leaders are not playing as nicely with
each other as they were. People everywhere are tired – tired of masks, lines, take-out, and perhaps
most of all, the uncertainty. When will it end? What lasting changes will we be left with? Will we be
better prepared the next time this happens? How will our kids go to school? When can we go back to a
theater for a liver performance? When can we sing together?

There are, however, still a lot of good things, things to be grateful for. More people are gardening. (It
has long been my belief that gardening can save the world.) Many have more time – for family, for
themselves, for causes that speak to them. Many are learning new skills (Zoom!) and finding that they
are more adaptable than they thought. How many people do you know who have taken up the ukulele?
Think about the things that are not as bad as they could be, maybe even write them down. Name them,
call them your gratitude list. There are medical studies that show that connecting to your gratitudes
(blessings?) is good for your health.

The sacred work of CBI proceeds. Rabbi, the Ritual Committee, and the AV committee are figuring out
the best way to have our High Holy Days services, more on that to come soon. We are in good company
– congregations all over the country are thinking this through, and at the URJ, the leadership groups in
The Tent are sharing and collaborating on ideas. Our Kesher co-directors are committed to a safe return
to Kesher, on-line, and with so much more lead-time, they are developing great activities and curriculum
that will make this fall even better than the spring. Our younger students will be getting a big craft bag
at the beginning of the year, so they have all that they need for the weekly classes. Our Programming
Committee is working on getting plenty of on-line offerings for the months coming up, so we can let our
minds explore even if our bodies are staying home. Landscaping continues to proceed, more on this
next time. I am proud of our CBI leaders for not slacking off during this summer of our discontent.
Meetings are happening, people are thinking outside the box for ways we can connect, stay in touch,
worship together, share simchas. These are some of my gratitudes.

In child-rearing, there is a catch-phrase – “Catch them being good.” It is generally applied to toddlers
who get a lot of ‘no’ in their day (if they are being normal toddlers) – give them some attention when
they are being good to balance out all the trouble they get into. Humans are programmed to notice the
dangerous, the negative, wrong – it is important for escaping from sabertooth tigers.
But it can be hard on our spirits. I urge you to catch the world being good. Feel free to share some of
those moments and I will be happy to share them back in the next update.
Stay well, stay healthy – and stay connected!! Shabbat Shalom! – -Miriam Schwartz



Dear CBI Family,

I hope this update finds you healthy, and that you are getting outside in the nicer weather to breath
some fresh air and walk around and see something besides the inside of your house! We are finishing
the fourth month since we closed the synagogue and went on-line for services. I’m glad that now that
we are in Phase 2, it is possible to meet in small groups outside, for those who feel comfortable doing

The number of coronavirus cases had a spike a couple of weeks after Memorial Day but did not appear
to spike after the Black Lives Matter Peaceful Rally in early June. The deaths have been minimal,
however, compared to the early part of the illness, and I think this reflects several things, in part that the
most vulnerable people have stepped up their game and are doing a good job of avoiding contacts that
are higher risk. Younger people seem to be a larger part of the newer cases, and it is hard to be a
younger person in the loveliest part of the year and be expected to refrain from social connections. Still,

I hope you are all careful!! You are not invincible (I’m not sure they are listening…).
At CBI, we continue to make good use of our down time. We now have lovely, smooth asphalt at the
entrance to the property – no more potholes! The gate hit a pothole of its own with some cable issues,
but this has been fixed as of this morning!! The weed mitigation of the rain garden beds is moving
successfully along – the tall weeds are gone.

The decision about High Holy Days services is not finalized – it depends on several factors – but we will
certainly have a virtual version, either with or without an in-person aspect. Likewise, the decision about
Kesher is pending an evaluation of the situation closer to the start date. The Covid Task Force will be
meeting soon, and we have two Covid Kits which are almost complete and at the shul. Our other
committees are staying active as well.

Two thoughts have been on my mind regarding Covid. One is that at the beginning of this pandemic, I
was encouraged to see people working together and thinking so creatively to find ways to work around
the realities of the pandemic. Currently, though, what I mostly hear has to do with the politicizing of
wearing masks. People are dividing along ideological lines on an issue that should be something we do
more for others than for ourselves. The rights of individuals to not be made uncomfortable must be met
just as fiercely with the responsibility we each have to protect those we encounter. The acrimony I see
and read about makes me so sad. Maybe if everyone had to wear a corset for a day, then no one would
complain about masks making it hard to breathe. Till that strange day, believe me (I am a doctor!) that
if everyone wears a mask when within 6 feet or indoors, everyone is safer. Asymptomatic spread

The other thought is that this time when many are prickly, or scared, or angry, or frustrated, is the time
we need to double down on practicing compassion for each other. Assume that the other person has a
reason to be responding to this challenge in the way they choose.

Enough of masks already. I leave you with some options for entertainment and enlightenment. Besides
our own sweet Shabbat, Binnie Perper adds an art history lesson about the Jews in Italian History
(TONIGHT! This looks very cool!) and Laura Berman is giving a free online concert as well (though it
conflicts with Shabbat).

Shabbat Shalom to you all! Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay connected!! — Miriam Schwartz



The Covid-19 Task Force met this past Monday and reviewed the Phase 2 guidelines for houses of worship.  While it is possible to meet, it is also very complicated.  The requirements include a log of congregant visitors, 6-foot distancing and wearing masks, thorough disinfection, monitoring how many people are in the bathrooms, and the list goes on.  At this point, we want to keep things as safe as we possibly can, and while we are looking into a plan to fulfill the requirements for Phase 3, we anticipate it will not be realistic or most safe to have gatherings for the time being  Even then, there are a lot of people who will not feel comfortable attending in person.  We continue to explore ways to bring services to as many people as we can in the long run.  And we are feeling ready to expand our repertoire of offerings.

Since many things in our lives are slower, it allows time to focus on other things, things that we may previously have said “I just don’t have the time or energy.”  This is certainly true about your friends here at CBI, and we are starting to look at things we may not have had the ‘bandwidth’ to tackle before.

One thing that is certainly moving ahead is the finishing of the front of the driveway and the gate!

We want to know what you’d like to see more of in the weeks and months ahead – so when you see a survey come across your electronic desktop from CBI, please take a few minutes to think about the questions and your answers, and get those questionnaires back to us!  Pretty please!

Reminder – e-mails from the Rabbi will come with the ending, and usually as a Constant Contact message.  If it is some other email address, it is likely spam.  Especially if it is asking for money!  If there is any question, please ask at the office.  Don’t send money.

Something to lighten a grim mood – John Krasinski’s SGN on YouTube – check it out!

Tonight is a special Zoom service – the graduating Confirmation class will be honored, and Lenny Halpern will help lead the service – and tomorrow he has the distinction of being our first Zoom Bar Mitzvah!  Hope to see you there – Shabbat Shalom!!

— Miriam Schwartz


Covid-19 Update 5.8.2020

Greetings, CBI family!  We have had some rather lovely weather, and I hope you have a safe way to get outside and enjoy it.

Today I want to talk a bit about what things at CBI may look like going forward, and how we are preparing for it.  There are so many unknowns, it is hard to prepare when we are not entirely clear what we are preparing for!  But there are two main areas the Covid-19 Task Force and your synagogue leadership are addressing.

One of those is the health and safety of our congregants.  We are following Governor Inslee’s lead on how and when to re-open, and the Secure Communities Network is developing some guidelines as well.  We will need to develop a different kind of first aid kit, and Dr. Angie Lee has kindly donated two touch-free thermometers to start us off – many thanks, Angie!!  I think a couple of pulse oximeters, some masks and gloves, and disinfecting wipes will be part of it too.  These will be in place before we re-open, as will procedures to disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Another is maintaining access to services for as many people as we can.  Our Zoom Shabbat services, Torah study, and Kesher are certainly not what we are used to, but they are charming in their own way, and the necessity of Covid-19 has opened a window for making services more accessible for more of our congregants.  The Ritual Committee is leading the way to consider how we might do either an entirely virtual High Holy Days season, or a hybrid model.  The Acoustics Committee, which has already worked hard to make services more accessible to those with hearing challenges, has agreed to help also with making services easier for those with vision and mobility challenges.  Thanks to both these committees and their chairs, Rabbi Samuels and Marta Brand, for their work in making services more inclusive!

Now I come to an ‘ask’ from you, our CBI Community.  The plans for virtual services or hybrid services will completely depend on getting a much more robust internet connection and Wi-Fi, and this is in process already, with leadership from Josh Greenberg – thank you Josh!  What I am asking for are some tech-savvy folks to volunteer to pitch in and help.  Isaac Konikoff has been our valiant solo IT person, and this is a job that needs a lot more than one person!

We need people who can problem solve, and who are willing to take on the care and maintenance of the CBI building network including the existing Wi-Fi and internet access equipment, VoIP phones and security camera system, help the Ritual Committee and the Acoustic committee decide on equipment, run a Zoom service as a host and monitor, and assist congregants who may need help getting a Zoom meeting set up at home.

This is an awesome opportunity for some of our younger congregants (though anyone with skills would be most welcome!!) to share your skills and a little time to contribute to our CBI community.  If you are interested and would like to know more, please contact me or Isaac Konikoff [ ]– he is a very sweet person so don’t be shy!

Please join us for Zoom Shabbat this evening, even for a few minutes!  No Kesher this week for Mother’s Day– call your mother, already!  Or remember her with sweetness.

Shabbat Shalom!  – Miriam Schwartz

Covid update 5.1.2020

Hello, CBI Family! Happy May Day! Who knows the song about ‘the lusty month of May’ from the musical Camelot?

The Covid Task Force is starting to consider how we will come out of lock-down. There is no big news, but we are starting to consider the needs of some people to have access to the facility in order to do their work. If you have a need to come to the building, please contact me and Mary Somerville.

We are also beginning the planning for High Holy Days and how best to do that. And other functions of the synagogue are proceeding too. When we do get back to being on site, I think you will see some real progress!

In the meantime, I highly recommend that you attend a Zoom Shabbat service or Torah study. Tonight is the Teacher Appreciation Service, so it’s a great night for families with kids, or anyone who values Jewish Education, to attend.  The Zoom services are a bit shorter than the sanctuary services, but it is sweet to see everyone at home participating. We do have them secured, so please consider doing this, even just once. It would be great to see your face!! I’ll be there again tonight!!

Shabbat Shalom!

Miriam Schwartz

Covid update for 4.24.2020
Happy Friday, CBI Family!
Just a brief update today. I found the following ideas for learning to touch your face less often. This is important, because the most frequent way people catch COVID-19 is by touching something with virus and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. It is also a great way to catch influenza, or any of the multitude of viruses that cause the common cold. With thanks from a wellness newsletter:
  • Increase awareness. Ask a partner to tell you when you touch your face, wear perfume or bracelets to remind you not to touch your face, and/or carry a pen and paper to record how many times you touch your face each day.
  • Help others. Think of the people you are trying to protect by not touching your face, and gently remind others when you notice them touching their face.
  • Do other things with your hands. Put your hands in your pockets, hold a ball or a deck of cards in your hands, or make fists with your hands for one minute if you bring them near your face.
  • Change postures. Keep your elbows off the table, sit in chairs without armrests or in the middle of the couch, and sit on your hands if you find it is hard to avoid touching your face.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Focus on taking long, slow, deep breaths and on relaxing muscles that feel tense, sit in a quiet place and focus on the present moment rather than the past or future, or spend time in nature at a safe distance from others.
A few other items:
The Garage Sale is postponed for this June, but we hope to do something in the fall or next spring, so please continue to save your great resaleable items for CBI.
In the spirit of Tikkun Olam – Air and water quality has improved in many places all over the world since the Covid-19 outbreak. We certainly don’t want to live this way – but how can we move forward with more mindfulness about the environment?
A bit of irony: The books by my bed are 1) The Great Influenza by John Barry, and 2) A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.
May you find, in this time of pause, new small pleasures that may have gone unnoticed in more hectic times.
Shabbat Shalom.
Miriam Schwartz

Shabbat Shalom, CBI Family!
We are now five weeks into the Covid-19 Lock-down. Every one of us has been affected by the huge changes in how we work, go to school, shop, worship, and connect. Almost everything in our lives requires more thought or effort, or a learning curve of some sort. This causes stress, and in order to cope well, I wanted to share a few ideas with you.
Most of us feel frustrated about the lack of control we feel, but there are always things we don’t have control over, like the weather, or traffic. We can feel more in control if we make active decisions about the things we can control, and not just let ourselves be paralyzed by uncertainty. It can be especially helpful to keep a daily routine for sleep, meals, exercise, and contact with others.
It can also be helpful to limit the amount of news we look at or listen to. Not all of what you hear or see may be accurate. And it may overwhelm your ability to feel balanced. Stick with trustworthy news sources and stop if you are feeling overwhelmed.
Remember the child-rearing concept of ‘catch them being good.’ Acknowledge the things that go right, the kind word or wave from someone on the street, the beauty of the season changing, the small steps of progress. Gratitude for these small things goes a long way toward raising our spirits and decreasing stress.
Take extra-good care of yourself. Make sure to get enough sleep if you can, though don’t stay all day in bed. Eat the healthiest foods you can, and don’t overdo alcohol or other mood-altering substances. (Except chocolate, that’s always ok ) Take time to relax and do those things that restore your spirit. If you are having trouble with any of these, consider asking your doctor for help.
All change is stressful. It can make us tired, irritable, sad, anxious, or angry. It can also be invigorating, challenging, and informative, as we see our lives with a new lens. It is likely that life after Covid will be different, and we can have some control over what the differences are that we bring with us from this time. What are you enjoying from this time of pause?
Some good news – In Whatcom and Skagit counties, we are seeing signs of flattening of the curve!  There are still some positive tests coming in, but the number of deaths has stabilized. This is all subject to change, but it is so great to see that our efforts are helping this to come about.
At CBI, we continue to rely on information from the state and local health departments in our decisions about activities.   At this time, we continue to rely on meeting by Zoom. NEWS FLASH – the date for the Annual Meeting has been changed to May 31st and will most likely be virtual. But even if we are not together in body, we are there in spirit! Your Board, your clergy, Mary in the office, Kesher staff, the Care Committee and the Mitzvah Corps – we are here for you! If there is some way we can help, please ask any of us! We are here to help – that’s what the CBI Family does!
Shabbat Shalom!
Miriam Schwartz

CBI Coronavirus Update 4-3-2020

Shabbat Shalom, CBI Family!  It is 3 weeks now since we went into heavy-duty hunker-down mode at CBI.  Sometimes it feels like yesterday, other times it seems like 3 months to me.  This is a time when so much is changing for all of us!  I wanted to update you all on Covid-19 issues in the area in general, and for CBI in particular.

In Whatcom County, we have seen 9 deaths from Covid-19.  This is, on a population basis, tiny – 0.004%.  Positive tests as of yesterday were 175 in Whatcom, for 0.08%.  For Skagit, there have been 4 deaths, for 0.003%, and 153 positive tests, for 0.12%.  Clearly there are many more people who are positive but don’t have symptoms, or whose symptoms are so mild they are not concerned enough to get tested.  The peak of cases is expected in another two weeks or so.  This is not to minimize the seriousness of the situation at all, but rather to give some perspective and to show that it looks to me like we are really flattening the curve.  All this upheaval seems to be working!!  So I hope you can take heart!  This will not be forever (though if you are at home with small kids it may feel like it!).

Here is what is going on at CBI:

  • We continue to have our Friday evening Shabbat and Saturday Torah Study on-line by Zoom – these are well-attended and quite lovely to see families gathered around their candles.
  • We also have our Kesher classes meeting by Zoom, and Nicky and Andrea and our Kesher teachers are, well, zooming ahead with engaging on-line content for the kids. B’nei Mitzvah training continues as well.  The New Synagogue Task Force and Security Committees are working together to get expanded internet and Wi-Fi capacity in conjunction with getting our front gate operational and the driveway completed.
  • We are looking into some federal financial relief to help us get through these challenging times. Many thanks to Terri Weiner for her work on this.
  • COMING VERY SOON: – The Care Committee, the Mitzvah Corps, and the Board of Directors will be reaching out in the next few days to every household in our congregation to touch base, offer support, and wish you a Happy Passover! Remember, not everyone has a 360 area code, so feel free to screen if you want.  Your caller will leave their phone number and call back the next day.  You may opt out of getting a call by contacting Harriet Markell at
  • Rabbi Samuels and Andrea Shupack will lead an abbreviated Second Seder on Thursday evening – the link will be shared next week.

Let me address concerns about Zoom – there have been reports of Zoom-bombing – uninvited people coming and disrupting meetings.  This is happening a minuscule number of times compared to the (probably) millions of daily meetings happening this way all over the world, but the concern is real and we are taking it seriously.  At this time, all service links have been taken off the website and are only available to members who get our weekly emails. If this doesn’t give you the access you need, please call the synagogue office number.  Feel free, however, in sending the links to your family and friends so they can join us as well. Committee meetings are now automatically happening with a waiting room that requires the host to allow you in.  We are being as safe as we know how to be, but we need to stay connected as a community as well.

I saw this on a local sign: “Viruses are contagious.  Anxiety and panic are contagious.  So are patience and hope.  Choose wisely.”  I am proud of CBI, and our local communities, for choosing patience and hope, for all the times we choose to be part of the solution, to care for one another, to see the silver lining in our situation.  We are making the best of a bad situation.  We are not at war.  As the Jews on that Watch-night in Egypt stayed hopeful, let us approach our Seders with hope, resilience, and a stalwart heart.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover!  May your matzah balls be light!  And – wash your hands!

Miriam Schwartz

3/20/20 CBI Covid update

Dear CBI Family,

Well, what a week it has been.  My heart has been saddened by a lot of the news.  Most of it you know.  I read that malware – computer ‘viruses’ as it were – are being imbedded in some apps that  claim to help people follow the progress of the Covid-19 infection – so please, be cautious about what you download in the search for information.  Other scams will no doubt be on their way.

But I see also great cause for hope and happiness.  I am in awe of the generosity of individuals and businesses and even corporations in helping people to stay connected, providing a means for vulnerable people to shop with less risk, take our bus service without pay, support workers who may have to reduce their hours of work.  I see creative problem solving every day, and people stepping up to make changes in how we live our lives on an unprecedented timeline.  In my own corner of life, in the medical practice I am a part of, many people are working long hours coming up with innovative ways to keep patients and healthcare staff safer while continuing to do what we need to do.

Similarly, I have seen the same innovation, quick changes, and thinking outside the box at CBI. We have had two committee meetings by Zoom, a platform for online meetings, and our Kesher Directors, Andrea Shupack and Nicky Naiman, as well as Rabbi Samuels, will be using Zoom to re-open Kesher this Sunday morning.  In short order, they have come up with online content for our kids to continue their Jewish education.

Similarly, Andrea and Rabbi Samuels have already used innovation to offer a Shabbat experience, and this evening, it will be interactive!  Torah study was online and interactive as well last weekend – give it a try!  You, your pajamas, and a cup of coffee or tea, discussing Torah from the comfort of home.

We have had to cancel our Community Seder, and there are other activities and services that will have to be postponed – but I want to focus on the things we are still able to do.  Beyond the connections noted above, we are still proceeding with our required landscaping work, and the work on getting the front gate functional.  We are also working on getting improved internet and Wifi at the synagogue, which will help our connectivity in this challenging time of staying home, and when we get back together, with our security and user-friendliness of the synagogue.  The Programming Committee is still working on future offerings.  Vicki and Jeff Jaffe and the Ark Design Group are moving forward with their innovative fund-raiser, so that work can continue toward the completion of the Ark, and this will help support artisans who might otherwise be losing income.  When we can meet again as a congregation, wouldn’t it be awesome to have the Ark completed!

I want to give a special shout-out to the Care Committee, led by Else Sokol and Harriet Markell, who have reached out to support those people who are most isolated and vulnerable at this time – and to the generous souls who have volunteered to pitch in and help them.  Bravo, and Yasher Koach!

Yesterday was the first day of Spring!  If ever we should feel joyous about the hopefulness and renewal that comes with the renewal we see in our gardens and the warming weather, it is now!!  Life goes on, and CBI goes on.  Someday we will be back to business as usual – but perhaps with some new tools in our toolbox!  Until then, stay hopeful, stay healthy, and stay connected!  And wash your hands!

Miriam Schwartz, president


Shabbat Shalom, CBI Family!

What a week it has been! I hope this message finds you well in body and spirit. I have just heard that the public schools are all closed until April 24th – so my thoughts are with the parents in this new challenge.

For everyone, I imagine, the way we live our lives is suddenly changed. Our usual haunts and activities are no longer accessible or safe. People are being ‘socially distant’. The news and recommendations change daily. The financial future is destabilized. We can’t go to school, to shul, to classes. For some of us, we can’t go to work in the same way, for others, we must go to work and deal with this crisis up close. We worry about our older relatives, ourselves, our spouses. We worry about our business neighbors whose livelihoods are threatened. We fear for those who are already vulnerable.

But there are a few things that make me a bit hopeful and I’d like to share them with you. First of all, we are not at war. People will die as a result of coronavirus, just as they have been dying of influenza, but it is not bloodshed and weapons. This crisis is one that can bring people together in some way, and we will learn new creative skills to do it. That creativity is another thing I see as a potential positive. In finding new ways to teach and learn, stay connected, and get things done, we may discover better ways to do things that we can add to our toolbox for ‘after’. I also think that the pace of life may slow down for some folks. Maybe we will rediscover simpler pleasures, like hiking, gardening, reading books, writing, cooking. On Yom Kippur we step out of our normal lives and examine them – this may be a similar opportunity to reconsider some of our life choices. Lastly – we may appreciate those things that we have taken for granted but are now difficult, unwise, or not available.

For Congregation Beth Israel, we are on the steep part of a learning curve that we embark on to provide religious services, Kesher teaching, connection, and community outreach. This weekend, we have some simple offerings (see below), but our plan is to spend time in the next week to learn how to offer more. We will update everyone each Wednesday in the E-News about on-line offerings, and we plan to send a reminder on Fridays about services available for streaming or viewing. The Congregation Beth Israel website is a source for up-to-date news and we encourage you to bookmark it on your browser.

As we move forward, I encourage you to stay healthy – cover your cough, wash your hands, eat healthfully, exercise moderately, and get enough sleep.

I’ll close with this poem, Prayer for a Pandemic by Cameron Wiggins Belin:

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home
remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children
when their schools close
remember those that have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips
remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money
in the tumult of the economic market
remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country,
Let us choose love during this time when we
cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
let us yet find a way to be the loving embrace
of God to our neighbor. Amen.

Stay safe, stay hopeful, and stay connected. Shabbat Shalom!
– Miriam Schwartz

To watch a live-streamed Shabbat service tonight follow this link:

To watch Rabbi Samuels and Andrea Shupack lead a brief Kabbalat Shabbat service with drash, check the website this evening for the video.

March 13, 2020

Dear Congregants,

Our community is founded upon Jewish values and in this uncertain time we want to emphasize the importance of Pikuach Nefesh: preserving and protecting life. Our highest priority right now is the safety and well-being of each member of our Beth Israel community.

The CBI Covid-19 Task Force just met Wednesday evening using a ZOOM on-line meeting, and after we all considered what is best for our congregation as well as the community at large, we have decided to stop having in-person services, Kesher classes, and meetings for the time being.  This will begin this evening after the shiva minyan for Karen Weill.  We don’t know how long this will last, but we will keep our ears and eyes on the recommendations of our Health Departments and the Centers for Disease Control and take things as they come.  No doubt the situation will look a lot different two weeks from now.

Rabbi Samuels and Andrea Shupack have already been brainstorming about how they can continue to have services and Torah study in an on-line fashion, and you can expect to hear more in the next day or two.  This weekend is a bit up in the air, but we are looking at various options, and we will communicate, by Constant Contact and via the Website, when there is a definite plan. Please check here for updates

Kesher is not going to meet in person this Sunday (3/15/2020).  There will, however, be virtual Kesher. Again, we don’t know how long this will go on, but Nicky Naiman, Andrea Shupack, and Rabbi Samuels are thinking creatively about ways to keep students going with their Hebrew and Jewish studies.  Kesher families, expect a letter from our co-directors in the near future.

We are in the process of sorting out what will happen to the Adult Education classes.  The End of Life series will be postponed for now.  We will reach out to the teachers of the other classes and let you know what the plan is, once we know for sure.

Committee meetings are on hold or will be in some virtual format.  The ZOOM meeting went well, and while it lacks the warm fuzzy quality of an in-person meeting, it was kind of fun!  We feel this is important to keep people home and not, well, congregating.  It also makes it easier for those who live remotely.  Ask the chair of your committee about how your group will move forward.

We will try to get our internet services at the synagogue improved in as short a time frame as we can – this will help our connectivity and ability to stream services from our own synagogue.  We are also looking at ways we can use this time to improve some safety features around the synagogue, such as installing hand sanitizer dispensers, procedures for disinfecting after events, and first aid kits installed near the elevators or in a more prominent place.

Our older adults and those with chronic medical conditions are the most vulnerable members of our CBI family – not just to the infection, but to the social isolation that is being recommended.  Our Care Committee is already reaching out, both for volunteers, and for anyone who may need some  additional help.  Please, check in on your friends, old and young.  This is a stressful time for everyone – there is much uncertainty about jobs, school, safety, and all activities.

While this is a challenging time, it is also a time of opportunity – to try some new things, to see our daily lives with fresh eyes, to appreciate how well things generally work, and to problem-solve creatively.  We may stumble on some new ways of doing things that may serve us well even after this crisis is over. Thank you in advance for your patience.

Stay tuned – we will send more information when we have it.  The CBI website will be kept updated as we learn more.  Keep yourself healthy, wash those hands, cough in that elbow, and get plenty of sleep.  Stay calm, stay positive, and stay connected!

The CBI Covid-19 Task Force is:

R. Joshua Samuels – Clergy and CBI events
Harriet Markell – Care Committee
Nicky Naiman – Kesher
Josh Greenberg – Facilities and Skagit interface
Melissa Schapiro – Communications
Marta Brand – Facilities
Dan Ohms – Safety and Security
Mary Somerville – Coordination
Miriam Schwartz – CBI Board

Government links

Where can I find additional information about Coronavirus?

Whatcom County Health Department:

Washington State Department of Health:

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: