Our plans for summer, fall, and the High Holy Days

These past few months of pandemic life have laid bare many painful truths that in “normal” times we find a way to avoid confronting: the racism at the core of this country, the vulnerability of so many of our neighbors who now stand in blocks-long bread lines, hours-long unemployment queues, who live in fear of eviction and hospital bills. We may have thought we were safe, comfortable, protected. But in reality the structures of democracy, of safety nets, of our systems of health and education and public safety had already begun to show their cracks, and crumble. To look at these truths is profoundly anxiety-inducing. And at the same time, when we can be with that crumbling, be with those cracks, the possibility of building something utterly new comes into view. We can, in the words of the prophet Nehemiah, “Arise and build!”
This verse - which comes to us from a time when our People rose up to rebuild their destroyed Temple, their destroyed city- inspires our theme for the High Holy Days this year. As we move into a very uncertain New Year, these words will keep us grounded and moving forward. In that spirit, we want to share with you what we are building for Malkhut this summer and fall.
But first, we want to express our gratitude to so many of you who have helped us to rise up during the pandemic and rebuild our gatherings remotely these past 4 months. We’ve figured out how to sing together on Zoom and to feel like a community even when we need a break from staring at a screen. We’re glad that so many of you have celebrated Shabbat with us on Zoom, joined our new, small groups, helped your kids cook and craft with us, participated in our Tikkun Leil Shavuot, and emailed or chatted with us about how you’re doing. 
And now, here are some of our plans for the rest of the calendar year as well as some of the uncertainties we still face.
First, the things we do know:
It is highly unlikely that we will be gathering in person for the High Holy Days. This was an incredibly sad decision to have to make, but after talking to our collaborating organizations and Malkhut’s Ritual Team we are moving ahead with plans to celebrate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur remotely via Zoom and possibly other platforms. As in past years, we’ll collaborate with Kehillat Tivkah, Wandering Jews of Astoria and the Queens Jewish Project.  We’re beginning to map out what these days will look like, in conjunction with our staff, Ritual Team, collaborators, singers, and other volunteers. We know that there will still be lots of singing, meditation, opportunities to study, and some separate programming for families with young children. We’ll center much of the prayer and study around our unifying theme, “Arise and build!” as we devote ourselves to not returning to “life as usual” but to creating a new, more just, equitable and caring world.
We’re moving ahead with plans to continue expanding our children’s programming, whether in person or on Zoom. In August, we will launch Malkhut & Me, a new program for kids ages 0-3 and their grownups. We’re really excited to be working with Tkiya: The Jewish Music Initiative to create a fun, interactive musical experience. Stephen Figurasmith will be leading Malkhut & Me. They are a music educator who has worked in Jackson Heights before. You can watch a video of Stephen singing HERE. Malkhut & Me will take place on the first Saturday of every month, along with our monthly Shabbat gatherings and Children’s Learning Program (CLP).The Children’s Learning Program for ages 4-8 will also be expanding.  To help with this, we are growing our Malkhut team by adding a CLP Coordinator.
We’ll continue meeting virtually over the summer. Usually, June is our last month together before we take a break for the summer months. This year, with so much uncertainty, we want to continue connecting as a community. Rabbi G. has been working with a small group of lay leaders who will facilitate Shabbat services on Zoom this summer. Plans are also underway for some creative programs for kids, made possible by a grant from PJ Library. Look for dates and more information via email and on our website soon.
Whether we’re in person or remote, we will resume our regular schedule of celebrating Shabbat on the first Saturday and third Friday of every month after the High Holy Days.
Now, the things we don’t know yet
We don’t have a date for when we will return to in-person gatherings.  There are many questions about what we’ll need to modify in order to keep everyone safe and we don’t have full answers yet.  We’re monitoring official guidance from local officials. And because we meet in many different rented spaces, we will stay in conversation with the venues where we usually meet.  Right now, our thinking about the fall involves a “Plan A” and a “Plan B” depending on when in-person gatherings become possible. This includes Shabbat gatherings on Friday evening and Saturday morning, inter-generational celebrations of Sukkot and Chanukah, and opportunities for study and meditation.
We don’t know if we’ve thought of everything. Do you have feedback about our remote gatherings? Ideas for new things you’d like to see? Or thoughts about how we should return to in-person events? Please reach out and let us know.
Wishing everyone a healthy, nourishing and restful summer.
Rabbi G. and the whole Malkhut team