Central Conference of American Rabbis Responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 12, 2020


The Central Conference of American Rabbis joins communities of faith worldwide in prayer at this unprecedented time as this rapidly spreading virus continues to claim lives, resulting in extensive illness, wreaking economic havoc, and generating widespread anxiety and fear. We pray for the souls of all who have died from the COVID-19 illness and extend sincere wishes of comfort to their grieving families.

As synagogues and other houses of faith, communal institutions, and professional organizations—including the CCAR—are forced to cancel public conventions, conferences, in-person gatherings, and even religious services, we similarly urge every individual to join in lifesaving efforts to reduce any possible risk of infection through increased hygiene and social distancing. As we collectively fight to save lives and eliminate this virus, we encourage all who are able to avail themselves of online gatherings and conventions, virtual learning and classes, live streaming of worship services, even pastoral care via telephone or video conferencing. While human touch undeniably adds meaning to our relationships and our lives, these efforts are necessary to preserve our health. As Jewish tradition counsels: “Each of us is enjoined to guard our lives” (Joshua 23:13), and “Saving even one life is tantamount to saving the entire world” (Sanhedrin 4:9).

Reform rabbis are especially concerned about the most vulnerable members of our own communities—the elderly, the infirm, those without adequate health care, and all who live in underresourced conditions. Thus, we urge our national and international leaders to concentrate legislative responses on assuring adequate health care for all, sufficient free or low-cost virus testing equipment for all who need it, and measures to preserve employment for those working in industries most vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact. And we pray, too, that our rabbinic colleagues, our communities, and our national and global communities may find the bitachon—the deep sense of trust—needed to help us all manage our anxieties and fears.

A Jewish folktale relates that King Solomon was once presented with a “magic” ring inscribed with the words “Gam zeh ya’avor—this too shall pass.” In his wisdom, Solomon realized even as these words kept him grounded in jubilant times, they also provided him tremendous comfort when he was troubled. This virus and its ever-widening impact could endure for some time. However, may we find a measure of comfort in the sure knowledge that, as with the greatest tragedies in our people’s past and world history, this virus, too, will pass.

Whether in trying times or times of our greatest rejoicing, the rabbis of the CCAR are present for our communities and for one another. With God’s help and our shared determination, we will persevere with strength and courage.


Rabbi Ronald Segal
Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Hara Person
Chief Executive
Central Conference of American Rabbis