Congregation Beth Chaim grows online community during COVID

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Amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Congregation Beth Chaim, the largest Reform Jewish congregation in Mercer County, is continuing to grow a thriving online religious community despite congregants not being able to gather together in person.

The latest online effort is a plan to host communal Zoom events so congregants can light Hanukkah menorahs together.

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“The Maccabees fought for religious freedom and lit the menorah in the temple in order to bring their community together,” Congregation Beth Chaim Senior Rabbi Adena Blum said in a prepared statement. “We have the same need for community today. As a result of the novel coronavirus, we cannot gather in person, but technology allows us to come together for holidays, education, and worship, and we are making use of that.”

Congregation Beth Chaim has scheduled a series of cultural and educational events and worship services during Hanukkah, which starts at sundown on Dec. 10 and continues until sundown on Dec. 18. Each of the events or services will take place on Zoom and will include a communal lighting of the Hanukkah menorah.

“This is a unique way for us to connect. At this dark time of year and during this dark period of the pandemic, we are looking forward to bringing more light into our lives,” Blum said in the statement.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congregation Beth Chaim has migrated its educational and worship activities online using Zoom. The congregation also livestreams its services on YouTube. That began long before the pandemic started.

“Our livestreaming of services began as a way for us to reach people who could not join us in our sanctuary to worship with us,” Blum said in the statement. “Using Zoom to celebrate Hanukkah virtually as a community is part of that important effort.”

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