Dear Friends,

As you know, our situation is changing rapidly here in Washoe County. Yesterday, the Washoe County Health District emailed mid-morning with reports that the wastewater testing revealed a sharp rise in omicron levels. I was in meetings at the time, Mike Stombaugh was diligently working on the Shabbat reminder, and Michael Gorden our president was at his day job with the state.

By 2 pm, before Michael or I even had a chance to read the update from the county, we had received three complaints from congregants that having services in-person this week was irresponsible. After my meetings were over and Michael finished his security meeting at 7:30 pm, he and I had a call to discuss the new information and our response to it. We sent out a few emails to other leaders and made some calls to get the information we needed to make a sound decision for the many events we hold over the weekend and went to bed. This morning, I woke up to messages from 2 more upset congregants, and have now spent my day off making difficult decisions, drafting congregational emails, and checking in on newly sick people.

I say all of this to you because I think it can sometimes be hard to keep our perspective when we are scared. Michael, Mike, and I are human and are going through the pandemic the same as everyone else. We had full schedules this week BEFORE the news changed, and are trying to pivot as quickly as we can. These decisions take time and care and no matter what we decide, we will get angry messages from people who don’t like what we’re doing. We need to weigh what does the least harm and we take the job of caring for this community seriously.

As the spiritual leader of this community, I would like to ask for your patience and your chesed at this time. We leaders are incredibly busy serving this community, and cannot always respond immediately or perhaps as quickly as you may want to new changes. We do take to heart your suggestions and are deeply affected by your anger and disappointment.

As things change quickly in the coming days, please forgive any last-minute changes we may have to make. Know that if we have to cancel something in-person, it’s because we’re not willing to get people sick. Know that if we keep something open, it’s because we are doing the best we know how to keep everyone in our building safe. We are trying our hardest to be good leaders to everyone – those who only feel like they can be in-person and those who feel it is unsafe.

This has been such a hard time and it can be easy to fall into reacting immediately, swiftly, and forcefully to every change. But we all need to remember to take a breath, acknowledge the humanity of everyone around us, do our best to make the right decisions for us, and forgive any mistakes made by that those around us. Remember that if you ever feel unsafe coming to our building, we are always live streaming at, and we welcome your participation there just as much as in person.

Please stay tuned for a message from Michael regarding this weekend’s events. I hope we can all take a moment to take a breath and get back to center in the middle of this stressful week.


Rabbi Sara Zober