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Five Towns houses of worship continue to connect with congregants amid coronavirus outbreak


Temple Hillel Rabbi Steven Graber of the Conservative Jewish synagogue in North Woodmere is speaking to his congregants through a video on YouTube and conducting weekday evening services at 7:30 p.m., and Shabbat services at 6 p.m. 

“I am teaching the portion of the week on Temple Hillel's Facebook page,” he said. “More services, classes and programming will be added very soon.”

With the outbreak of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, public gatherings have been nearly banned except in groups of 10 people or less, which has led to some odd scenes. “This morning, I performed a funeral, graveside where everyone was a wearing facemask,” Graber said, about a March 20 service.

In his first video presentation, Graber said: “It seems a bit strange. Here I am alone, taking to you, hoping that you are watching this.”

He said that his oldest congregants told him that they have never experienced anything similar to this health crisis. “But I believe that if we live smart and stay apart, we will get through this,” Graber said in the video.

‘All temple events found on our Upcoming Events page are postponed. Services are being held remotely,” it reads on the Temple of Israel of Lawrence website. The oldest Reform temple on Long Island is closed.

Synagogues have gone to virtual programming to keep in contact with their members and continue the religious services. Churches have also been directed to close for public services and have also gone to conducting services online. As Palm Sunday is on April 5, there will be no distribution of Palms. 

On March 24, Rabbi Zalman Wolowik of the Chabad of the Five Towns conducted an online seminar on how to prepare to Passover Seder. The eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the ancient Hebrews leaving Egypt after hundreds of years of slavery will begin on April 8.

“We are offering Seder kits to go, as we recognize the many who would come annually to our communal Seder and this year we will not be able to coordinate this for them, additionally there are many who have never been home for Passover and we are going to guide them in the basic preparations so that the home is kosher for Passover,” he said, adding that, "It was amazing, I heard great feedback from the participants who truly learned a lot on many levels, and most important relieved the Passover preparation stress."

At Temple Beth El, a Conservative congregation in Cedarhurst, Rabbi Claudio Kupchik is conducting online services Sunday to Thursday at 7:45 p.m.

“The consensus is that we need to follow the guidance of the government and the health authorities and stay at home with only the immediate family together,” he said. “I’ll be writing an article about this for my congregation about how we are about to experience something akin to the first Passover, when the observance was conducted during the plague, with many similarities.”