Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many communities saw longstanding organizations close their doors and never reopen.

But according to Rabbi Zushe Greenberg, spiritual leader, and Miriam Greenberg, educational director, Solon Chabad was determined to never give up and to continue to deliver worship and community to Jews when they needed it most.

Recalling March 2020, Miriam Greenberg said they closed temporarily like everyone else. But it wasn’t long before leadership decided it was time to reopen and get worshipers back on their property. The big solution was utilizing outdoor programming, she said.

“We knew we had to provide for our people,” she said. “In-person is so vital for continuing connection. We opened our synagogue in May for outdoor services. We stopped serving food, but we did everything outside. Every single thing was held outdoors on our pavilion.”

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Solon Chabad congregants worshiping outside during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

And then summer came around, but Miriam Greenberg said Solon Chabad knew they needed to continue being proactive but also cautious when it came to COVID-19 precautions.

“We decided, again, if we can do it safely, we will,” she said. “And that has been our mantra all along – continuing, keeping Judaism and Jewish offerings going, but safely. We offered an outdoor summer camp with separate pods of campers. Each group was kept separate and had its place, but we were the only Jewish summer camp in Cleveland last summer. We ran the full summer, and it was really good.”

Meanwhile, Miriam Greenberg said Solon Chabad and Camp Gan Izzy didn’t have a single case of community spread that could be traced back to their programming. Following the success of the 2020 summer camp season, they geared up for the High Holy Days with a 7,000-square-foot wedding tent with socially distanced seating.

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One of the outdoor classrooms at Solon Chabad being used for prekindergarten students in 2020.

That effort to make sure the Jewish community is feeling spiritually supported is integral to Judaism and the Chabad message, Zushe Greenberg said.

“Judaism should never be closed,” he said. “It is the most important survival for the Jewish people - no matter where they are, not just the Jews in Solon. When you close, you risk people forgetting to return. It’s about providing consistency and anything you can do to connect people to Judaism. That’s the goal of Chabad and any Jewish organization.”

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Greenberg

When school began in the fall, Solon Chabad was faced with another decision like many others across the country – reopen in person or remain virtual. The leadership decided to go the hybrid route, offering both to families, resulting in 80% of parents choosing in-person schooling.

“It shows you how much people needed it and trusted us,” Miriam Greenberg said.

And as it got colder, Zushe Greenberg said that didn’t deter anyone. Solon Chabad moved its services and educational offerings inside, but kept the windows open, suggesting congregants bundle up.

“It was more important to keep them safe while here,” he said. “People came to services in coats, sitting inside just wanting to attend services.”

Looking forward to a post-pandemic world, both said they’re optimistic Solon Chabad will continue to be able to provide spiritual and religious services. Solon Chabad will add an 11,000-square-foot addition as well as additional parking, which will break ground after the holiday season.

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Attendees worship outdoors at Solon Chabad in 2020.

“We are continuing with services outside because some people might not be comfortable coming inside the building or wearing masks. Everyone will be welcome,” Zushe Greenberg said of the upcoming High Holy Day season to prevent crowding. “We have free membership, everyone wants to feel welcome. It’s a very important aspect – every Jew should feel welcome.”

Miriam Greenberg said, “Our goal is to make sure people come to services. So, if they aren’t comfortable coming indoors where it could be crowded, we’re going to make it work.”

Solon Chabad is at 5570 Harper Road.

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