Temple Israel rabbi: ‘I’m really upping my game on Zoom’

Marcia Zimmerman
Marcia Zimmerman

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Marcia Zimmerman, rabbi, Temple Israel 

We have been doing so many Zoom worship gatherings. People have said how much fun it is to see everybody, and they didn’t realize they felt isolated.

I’m really upping my game on Zoom. I have learned how to put one of my own pictures in the background. My husband [state Rep. Frank Hornstein (District 61A)] and I went to Zion National Park this fall and I put that photo in the background, and the kids in our Judaic and Hebrew program thought it was funny I figured that out.

Passover is two weeks from Wednesday night. Families are doing Zoom Seder. We also are going to do a Seder in real time with clergy there. It’s very fun to prepare for it, even though we’ll be missing seeing congregants in person.

Our youth group did an “untalent show” last night on Instagram, which was fun to watch.

We’re also reaching out on phone calls. People really want to talk. Usually you reach out to people and it’s, “Thanks, rabbi, bye,” you know. Now people have all the time in the world. In some ways, you realize how crazy our lives have become. We haven’t had to sacrifice as a country or think about other people or go with less. I think those are really important lessons that are crucial at this time and in this experience.

We’ve still had funerals. In Judaism you can’t embalm, so you’ve got to honor the person who died by burying them as quickly as possible. We came up with a really good procedure and process that has been very helpful. All of it is graveside, outside, with 10 people or fewer, and we’re streaming the service. I did a funeral this week with 10 people and 70 people streaming, and then we’ll do a memorial service at a later date. We did a Zoom shiva Thursday night, and we’re doing it again tonight.

We’ve been so wanting to move beyond our four walls. Religious institutions that stay bound by their buildings are just not going to survive.