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Message from Hazzan Steve

July 21, 2021


What blessing do you have for where you have been, where we all have been, the last seventeen months? My colleague and friend Hazzan Jessi Roemer asks this question as the community she serves in Philadelphia begins emerging from Zoom into meeting in three dimensions in the synagogue. Hazzan Jessi’s prayer/poem about this is at the end of my musings here.

It is easy to focus on loss, and it is important to do so, lest we skip the inconvenient and unpleasant steps of grief. And yet, there is power in looking back and assessing all that we have come through. Perhaps you discovered new depths of strength and endurance in yourself, in family members, in friends. Or prudent isolation and carefulness may have given you the opportunity to read or paint or listen to music or play in ways you had forgotten give you pleasure.

As we migrated to Zoomlandia for nearly all of our CBI experiences, we discovered new ways of being together, new ways of looking at each other. We were able to share holidays and family simchas, and also family and community mourning, with friends and relatives far from Chico. We invented new ways of celebrating Chanukah, night after night from the convenience of home. Maybe you found that you could sing, with your zoomicle on mute, and now that you know you can nothing will stop you from singing in shul. A small community of us have gathered on Zoom week after week on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for the twenty minute Ten Minute Tune Ups. We know that as we emerge into the light of day we will continue to make the good parts of Zoom available.

Here is Hazzan Jessi’s prayer/poem, as published at

Upon Emerging: A Poem for Transitioning Out of Quarantine

By Hazzan Jessi Roemer

When a butterfly pushes out toward sun,

unfolding wet wings, shaking off the last silky strands

of home –

Just before it launches into flight,

does it turn back

and bless the cocoon

that held it?

Mah nora hamakom hazeh,

how awesome

is this place.

Source, bless this (ephemeral) space

where we’ve grown,

and sung,

each voice, alone –

where we’ve listened for,

or imagined

each other’s rhythms,

tried to sync them with our own.

Bless the flickering light

that carried smiles

over miles to each of us,

cocooned inside our homes.

Bless the air

in which we now, unfolding,

blink at the sun,

limbs wobbling,

slowly remembering,


Bless the stones on which we step

across this creek,

treading back to where

the ground is pounded

smooth, grooved into circles

from season after season

of our gathering.

Mah nora hamakom hazeh,

how awesome is this place.

Barukh haMakom, Barukh Hu,

blessed is the Place

that holds us.

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