One Year In with Rabbi Rhonda Nebel

A year after Rabbi Rhonda Nebel, her husband Robert, and their daughter Samara joined the CBI community, Rabbi Nebel reflects on the joys and challenges of a year impacted by the pandemic.

Rabbi Nebel, who previously served in Hauppauge, NY says she has been impressed by how genuine everyone in the congregation is. “Menschlichkeit oozes out of this community and I haven’t even seen it in its full glory yet as we are just now on the precipice of a full opening,” she says, adding, “the love and care you show each other surpasses any community I have worked in up to now. It is rare and I am lucky to be a part of it now.”

Rabbi Nebel made it a primary goal to reach out and get to know all of CBI’s members. As she recalls, “with the pandemic, nothing was easy at first. I wanted to meet everyone; I wanted to establish relationships, goals and dreams within the CBI committees and community. I wanted to learn the rhythm and heartbeat of where I am in the Jewish community and beyond. I wanted to continue successful beloved programs and create some new ones. I have accomplished much of this, just slower and through Zoom and the telephone until recently. And I will say this, Zoom has all but eliminated the need for in-person meetings. That has been a wonderful convenience and increase in participation for all.”

Zoom proved to be essential for providing Adult Education classes as well as monthly Zoom dinners with the rabbi, and in many ways brought the congregation together like never before. At the time that she came to CBI, this was still an unprecedented practice for certain holidays. Rabbi explains, “Adjusting services for Shabbat and Holidays was a truly eye-opening experience to the adaptability of both Jewish law and the Jewish community. Because of the unique circumstances of the pandemic certain leniencies were invoked that energized a dormant population. The challenge now is to build on that re-invigoration so CBI can not only return to a new normal, but with a growing level of membership and participation as well.” Between Zoom and outdoor events, the congregation came together more than many had expected, given the pandemic. “I tried to find ways to bring us together,” Rabbi recounts, “for example, with our monthly Zoom dinners with the rabbi, hosting events at my home like the Sukkah open house and Lag BaOmer Bar-B-Q, having  outdoor programs like the Shofar Drive-in and Chanukkah celebration, organizing our Zoom Tu B’Shvat seder, Zoom Purim play and megillah slide show,  our Zoom PJ Library story, music and art time, Monday morning and evening Zoom Adult Ed classes, and of course, our weekly Zoom Shabbat (and holiday) services.” Also, it is important to mention Rabbi Nebel’s open door policy at her home where many one-on-one masked and distanced visits from congregants took place this past year. That policy will remain long after the pandemic.

Rabbi Nebel brings compassion to her work with children, whether teaching and coordinating Religious School or preparing students for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. She looks forward to launching her innovative new approach to religious education for youth while continuing to build the programs she has established during this first year.

Rabbi Nebel welcomes communication with congregants. She also welcomes ideas for Zoom events. Those who wish to speak with Rabbi Nebel can contact her through the CBI office at (203) 792-6161 and leave a message, or send an email to cbi193clap@gmail.com. She is available every day except Wednesday and Saturday.