Read more about our COVID-19 response here.

September 2020 Update

Dear KBR Community,

Every year, I strive to approach the leadup to Rosh HaShanah with fear and trepidation. The Day of Judgment requires no less than introspection and honest assessment of ourselves, and a commitment (or recommitment) to working on ourselves and our relationships. That’s a very important thing for us to be doing at this time of year — every year — as we approach these Yomim Noraim, Days of Awe.

However, this year, we naturally find ourselves in a more serious state of contemplation. Every interpersonal interaction I experience — be it a Zoom violin lesson with a young child, a Zoom family gathering, or an in-person masked interaction at a grocery store or doctor visit — has an importance, a weightiness, that I haven’t experienced at any previous period in my life. In person, I am constantly focused on minimizing my own risk plus ensuring my actions help my fellow citizens feel safer and protected. On Zoom, I am constantly analyzing and thinking about whether my intentions and words are coming across fully and successfully over spotty internet, low-resolution, distractions, and two dimensions. In either case, with a covered face or a face on a screen, we have to be extra vigilant to make sure that we are expressing ourselves, and connecting with each other, as we intended.

I believe this is actually an opportunity: we can apply these interpersonal  challenges, which we each are experiencing in our own unique ways, to our relationship with HaShem. We can ask, how am I fine-tuning my relationship with my Creator? Am I working to develop myself so that I can better connect spiritually? So that I can better achieve my potential and accomplish my job in this world? I would encourage everyone, as we are becoming so hyper-attuned to our interactions in this bizarre and troubled time, that we can use this as an opportunity to refine our spiritual side, and perhaps through that, become better at being able to bring some measure of connection and love into the world in this time of strife, unrest, and concern.

Secondly, I am pleased to announce that the Governor has stated that case levels and infection rates have reached a point that justifies relaxing some proscriptions and restrictions for Houses of Worship. Unless something dramatically changes, Rabbi Kelman will be able to lead abbreviated Rosh HaShanah services in the parking lot at KBR. Services will run promptly from 9-11am on both days of Rosh HaShanah, Saturday and Sunday, 9/19-20. We are employing a serious and aggressive protocol to mitigate disease transmission risk.

Registration and acceptance of our policies is required for attendance. Additionally, I and the rabbi both strongly urge anyone who feels unsafe or at high risk to remember that prioritizing one’s own health is absolutely essential. If you are such an individual, you should rest assured that praying at home is entirely appropriate, even on these very special holy days. We encourage you to consult with a medical professional if you have any questions about the proper course of action for yourself.

If you would like to register for services, please click here for the link. You must check every box indicating your acceptance of our protocols for services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I wish that you all should be written and sealed for the good, for sweetness, for love, for blessing, for health, and for life this Rosh Hashanah. I hope we will all see each other and the redemption in the coming year.

Yours in trepidation and hope,
Naomi Israel


August 2020 Update

Dear Kol BeRamah community, 

It has been nearly five months since we had to close our shul down for in-person services and events. Way back in mid-March, we rapidly transitioned to online learning via Zoom. Since then, our Rabbi and Rabinessa have been working tirelessly to connect and reach community members. Rabbi Kelman teaches at least one class every single day except Shabbos, and sometimes 3 or more! Topics have ranged from how to run your own Seder, to halachic aspects of the Titanic disaster, to vegan and vegetarianism in the Torah; from Hebrew calligraphy to a rollicking kids’ class (I couldn’t tear myself away from all the terribly hilarious puns!) to Talmudic discussions.

Rabbi Kelman continues to bring his signature warmth to every one of those classes. And the Rabinessa is cooking up a storm, as always, with a Jewish cooking, history & cuisine class. In addition, she is constantly reaching out to everyone with her delicious Shabbos treats, and has teamed with the Food Depot, along with some amazing KBR volunteers, to help needy congregants access kosher food during these challenging times. At the congregational level, our Passover food store was a great success, and we continue to stock kosher meat and cheese for sale at Kol BeRamah (with more coming in before Rosh HaShanah). If you are interested, please contact us and we will be happy to make a socially-distanced appointment.

However, the end of Covid is not in sight. Cases are, devastatingly, going up in New Mexico and throughout the country. We have had the opportunity to join a video call with Dr. Fauci himself, as he addressed Orthodox synagogue leadership across the country. In addition, Rabbi Kelman is constantly in communication with rabbinic leaders — national and international halachic authorities — as well as public health experts. The Rabbi’s decision, supported by our Board, is that, at this time, opening up our shul is an unjustified public health risk, and would potentially endanger our precious community members.

Thank G-d, I have not yet heard of anyone who attends Kol BeRamah having gotten COVID. I would like it to stay that way. We are continually evaluating the situation and considering various options for services and programs, both virtual and — as soon as appropriate — in person.  Above all, we are following the Torah precept of “Venishmartem M’od” (guarding our health proactively and zealously). We will keep the community informed as things change; we welcome your thoughts, questions, and feedback.

Finally, I would like to ask our community to consider a few things:

  1. Please take your health seriously, and also the health of others. Wear masks. Wash your hands. Avoid unnecessary exposures and risks. Minimize outings that would put you in higher-risk settings. Ask us for help with groceries or other items, if you don’t feel safe going out. (We have a group of healthy volunteers that are happy to pick up groceries or drop off items, as needed, while taking strict health precautions for themselves and you.) Consider carefully whether or not you really need to go out: which activities are truly necessary? We have cancelled classes and services, not because they are “non-essential,” but because we are obligated to prioritize our own and our community’s health and safety. Our physical health is necessary for our spiritual health. We encourage you to extend that tenet and guard yourself with vigilance until the risk passes.
  2. Our shul is likely going to be closed for in-person services for a while, but we treasure our wonderful, warm community, and want to make sure that everyone maintains their connection to their Judaism and their friends. I encourage you to try out a Zoom class! In the coming days, we will be finalizing our Rosh Hashanah schedule. We value your input on what you need to help you get the most out of the Fall Holidays — please email us or call the Rabbi with your concerns or thoughts.
  3. Please make an extra effort to support this year’s membership campaign.  We have taken steps to reduce unnecessary costs, yet our synagogue still faces strong financial pressures. At the same time, many of our regular fundraising activities are not happening. We need your support of our wonderful programming and Rabbi, especially during this difficult time. Every member who renews or joins Friends of KBR will receive a beautiful siddur and a high-quality shofar. And, we encourage you join us for Steve Ovitsky’s class on August 20, which will teach the basics of how to blow a shofar, and to perform the mitzvah on Rosh HaShanah. 
  4. Minyanim are communal activities, and, in times of COVID, have communal consequences. As the Rabbi has determined for our community that public services are not currently appropriate, we ask that if you wish to observe a loved-one’s Yahrzeit, you do so with a special Zoom learning session (we can set it up for you). Alternatively, we can chant the “Kel Maleh” prayer for your loved one on the Saturday night before the Yahrzeit, during our weekly Zoom Havdalah ceremony.  Not only are these both time-honored ways to mark the anniversary of a loved one’s passing, but you will be protecting your community as we join with you in your mitzvah. 

Thank you so much for your support — I miss you all, and truly hope it is not too long until we can all celebrate Shabbat, holidays, and joyful occasions together!

Naomi Israel, President


Coronavirus Update
In consultation with Dr. Dan Sosin of the NM Department of Health (and formerly of the CDC), in addition to reviewing guidelines from the Orthodox Union, the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, the New Mexico Department of Health, and the CDC, Kol BeRamah is suspending services and classes until further notice. We believe that this a prudent approach, and encourage you to review New Mexico’s state coronavirus prevention guidelines.

We are actively working to find safe ways to keep our community together during this difficult time.  Rabbi Kelman is teaching his regular class schedule using online web teleconferencing, plus more!  We are also looking at other things we can do to support each other; more details will be announced soon.

As always, if you feel in need of counseling, or just need a caring voice to talk to, Rabbi Kelman is always happy to answer your call.  And if you, or someone you know, is in need of assistance, please let us know and we will try to help.