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Pandemic Response Committee Update - April 2021

Shalom Dear Congregants,

It is with great pride I am pleased to report that with a combination of resilience, determination and imagination, our Jewish community has managed to remain connected in the face of a worldwide pandemic! Thank you all for your patience, faith, courage and especially your willingness to venture into the new territory of virtual services, meetings, classes and observances.

The use of technology required a bit of learning from us all, including our own Rabbi Ken, Richard Field (with the assistance of his brother Ken Field) and Stephanie who have put forth a remarkable effort to adapt throughout this unusual time. The reward is that, in addition to maintaining our connection to one another, we have been able to expand our reach to those on far away shores as well as to those in Hawaii for whom transportation and mobility have been barriers to participation.

Over the years virtual services had been an elusive goal. Now that they are in place, they will continue indefinitely into the future, blossoming as our understanding and capacity grow.

As the number of vaccinations continue to rise while infection rates of Covid-19 fluctuate; falling, rising, and hopefully falling again, I am sure that many are wondering when we will able to be physically together once more. It is something that I think about often.

Here is what I can share as we move closer to the eventual reopening of Temple Emanu-El to in-person activities:

  • Our first priority will always be the safety and well-being of everyone who steps onto our campus. 
  • Our decisions will be based on scientific evidence, State and County restrictions and an abundance of caution.
  • We will continue virtual services.
  • We will complete the current SJS term virtually as planned.
  • We will be planning for (with virtual contingency) in-person SJS classes in the Fall with safety measures in place.
  • We will continue to conduct Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations with a small physical presence of immediate family and necessary staff. Extended family, friends, and the community will continue to be able to join in the celebrations virtually until further notice. 
  • Once it can be done safely, we will consider beginning some small group gatherings (while retaining virtual options) such as Torah study, Tuesday Wisdom group, as well as Sisterhood and Hawaii Jewish Seniors meetings with the following safety measures in place:
    • Areas will be cleaned before and after each event
    • Participants will need to pre-register to limit the size of the group
    • Participants will need to sign-in in case contacts need to be traced
    • Groups will need to meet in areas large enough to accommodate 6’ of space between unrelated individuals
    • Masks will be required
    • No food will be allowed
    • Hand sanitizing will be necessary
    • Participation will be limited to those individuals whose vaccinations are complete

I hope this information offers a glimmer of light as we eagerly await the end of a strange and trying time in our lives. More details will follow soon.

As we work towards the return to our precious Temple, please continue to follow safe practices and mask wearing so we can beat this pandemic and be together again.

Covid-19 Update  May 2020

May 28, 2020

Shaloha Dear Congregants,

There is nothing like doing without to make one appreciate something we have always expected to be available to us. Being able to gather together in person at Temple Emanu-El  for  services, learning and togetherness are no exception. We miss that and each other.

I am grateful that we live in a time when technology affords us the opportunity to maintain the threads of our faith and friendships and grateful to our Rabbi Ken, SJS Director Rachel and Executive Director Richard for embracing that technology to bring services and learning to everyone at home. Thank you to all who have tuned in and participated.

We are also so lucky to live in this place, Hawaii, where the caseload of Coronavirus has been, so far, relatively modest and has slowed to less than a trickle.

Now that our government leaders have relaxed restrictions on many activities including gathering for religious observances, I and the Temple leadership need to address the issues of how and when the Temple Emanu-El campus will open its doors again for services, programs and life cycle events.

We are moving slowly and mindfully in keeping with our goal of sustained health with holiness.  To ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, congregants, and visitors we will continue to stream services and programming that would otherwise have been held in person even as we make plans to eventually allow small groups to gather on campus.

Though eager to open, we will not, until we have completed the work of putting in place protocols for safe interactions, sanitizing surfaces and high touch points and seating plans.  There is so much to consider and we want the to use the quieter time of summer to plan for Fall SJS classes, a 60th Anniversary celebration, the High Holidays and even our Annual Meeting which we have decided to push back to October.

With everyone’s safety in mind, we are holding off on reopening our doors, even if the state and city say it's okay. We will communicate loudly and broadly when it's time, while continuing to come to you virtually with services, classes and other Temple functions.

In the meantime, stay safe, tune-in and reach out if you can or need to.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jackie Mild Lau
President, Temple Emanu-El

Covid-19 Update  April 2020

April 20, 2020

Shaloha, Dear Congregants and Community Members,

We are indeed living in interesting times. After ushering in a New Year whose numbers are synonymous with perfect vision, the world was blindsided by the pandemic currently surrounding us.

In an effort to stem contagion of the novel Coronavirus, in March, the Temple Emanu-El Board of Trustees determined it best to discontinue all physical gatherings at the Temple building. We set an April date to reevaluate whether to reopen our facility or not.

While Hawaii as a whole has kept the number of new cases below projections so far, it has become clear that we will not be able to physically be together for the foreseeable future. We will continue to be guided by the recommendations of our leaders in health care and government, as well as by using cautious common sense. We will reopen our doors when it is again prudent to do so and will certainly let you know when we do.

In times of trouble we turn to faith to see us through. Because our faith, culture and tradition are more than meeting in our wonderful Temple building; our Jewish Community has been able to both reach out to and stay connected with each other.

With a little help from technology and a lot of hard work, kindness and the ingenuity of our staff and volunteers, Temple services are now being streamed live to us and the world. Many thanks to Richard and Stephanie for helping make this possible, and to our caring, fun and creative Rabbi Ken for bringing meaningful, interactive and entertaining Passover and Shabbat services into our homes for children and adults.

If you missed them, they are recorded on our Temple Emanu-El Facebook and web pages. You can also join us each Friday for children’s services at 6:00 PM and for adults at 7:00 PM on Facebook live and Saturday morning Torah sessions are also streamed on Facebook live and at 9:00 AM, while the “In Search of Wisdom” Group meets Tuesdays at 10:00 AM via Zoom.

Heartfelt thanks are in order for our Caring Community Connections coordinators, volunteers and Sisterhood, who have been staying in touch with membership and friends through an extensive call network, getting groceries and Passover goodies delivered, running errands and sending resources where they are needed.

This will be a continuous effort to hold us together even when we are apart and, hopefully, beyond. If you are not on a call list and would like to be, please send your current contact information by email to

We are also grateful to our SJS Director Rachel Garcia and SJS staff for continuing to create and share lessons with students and families, and to Mr. Jack for taking care of Temple while we are away.

To all who reach out, call friends, run errands, make donations and share humor, thank you! Please keep up the good work.

I’ll see you on Fridays (figuratively) alternating in space with Rabbi Ken to share some relaxing creative activities that can be done with materials that you can find at home.

Stay well and help each other.


Jackie Mild Lau
President, Temple Emanu-El

Covid-19 Update March 2020

March 16, 2020

Dear Temple Emanu-El Family,

There are an increasing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hawai‘i and the numbers are expected to continue to climb. Therefore, the Board of Trustees has made the difficult decision to suspend in-person gatherings for all events until further notice

Please monitor our weekly eblast, and Temple Facebook page through which we will communicate the impact on B'nei Mitzvah, Passover Seder and other previously scheduled activities.

We must do our best not only to maintain the health and safety of our community but, as a pillar of Jewish life in Hawai‘i, to lead through our actions. As COVID-19 spreads in the United States and on our islands, we will follow Center for Disease Control recommendations such as “social (physical) distancing,” which can make the difference between a functioning health care system and an overwhelmed one. These best practices are designed by experts and researchers to save lives and we want to fully embrace them. This unfortunately means temporarily sacrificing the face-to-face culture that we seek to cultivate within our Jewish community.

Rabbi Ken Aronowitz, Executive Director Richard Field, the Temple staff and Board of Trustees are working on plans to help us continue the Temple’s mission and vision, even while we are not in each other’s physical presence. This includes developing alternatives such as “live streaming” services, virtual (online) classes, do-at-home activities for our SJS students, and other options like telephone networking groups that will allow us to keep our Jewish community together through this trying time. We encourage you to reach out with creative ideas and to help out with whatever it takes to keep our community safe and healthy.

We will be communicating soon with additional details on the ways in which the Temple will seek to be there for the community, lead in the face of this challenge, and tend to those most vulnerable—Jewish and non-Jewish—with the greatest needs. These groups include: the elderly, the ill, the houseless population, the economically challenged, the immunocompromised, and many more. If you or someone you know requires assistance that the Temple can provide, please let us know.

We are constantly monitoring the situation. As a sacred community, our focus is on both the spiritual and physical health and safety of everyone. We will be in contact again soon.

May you all be blessed with health and strength.


Jackie Mild Lau, Temple President

HJFF 2020 Postponed

The Honolulu Museum of Art has postponed all public programming including this year's Honolulu Jewish Film Festival.

The Museum has released the following statement:

In light of COVID-19, the museum will be cancelling all public programs for the foreseeable future in the interest of everyone's health and public safety. This was a very difficult decision, but we are taking everyone's health and community safety very seriously. This means that we will need to cancel and reschedule Honolulu Jewish Film Festival 2020 to a later date.


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Wed, April 21 2021 9 Iyar 5781