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'This is exactly the time when people need their religious communities and the faith and the strength and the support and the connection.'

PMG FILE PHOTO - Portland's Neveh Shalom Synagogue is one of many religious and faith groups facing a dilemma posed by the coronavirus outbreak.Portland Rabbi David Kosak and other clergy members at Congregation Neveh Shalom, have been conducting Friday and Saturday Shabbat services in an empty sanctuary, livestreamed to congregates.

As "social distancing" becomes an increasingly common part of the world's vocabulary, this is the new normal for Neveh Shalom, and many other places of worship, for the foreseeable future.

"Interpersonal relationships are tremendously important for not only practicing the faith but also connecting with one another and spreading the message of the faith."

Two weeks ago, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced guidelines prohibiting all public gatherings of more than 250 people in order to reduce the spread of the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.

Last week, she tightened that to gatherings of more than 25.

"This is exactly the time when people need their religious communities and the faith and the strength and the support and the connection, and yet, simultaneously, this is a time when that is being denied," Kosak said.

pmgFriday and Saturday Shabbat services at Neveh Shalom were already livestreamed, but normally the synagogue saw anywhere from 75 to 350 people coming in-person to the services.

Now all of those people are forced to move online.

Other ceremonies, such as bar and bat mitzvahs, will also need to be conducted virtually or rescheduled for a later date.

Faith leaders said the biggest issue with only providing livestreaming and virtual services is the lack of interactivity, especially as many people are already feeling isolated.

"Islam is a social- and communication-based religion," Zakir Khan, board chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Oregon chapter, said. "And interpersonal relationships are tremendously important for not only practicing the faith but also connecting with one another and spreading the message of the faith."

Khan said one of the biggest impacts the coronavirus outbreak has had on the Muslim community is the ability to go to a local mosque, specifically for Friday prayer.

"Friday prayer is a pretty big deal for the Muslim community," Khan said. "Hundreds of people get together at a local mosque to pray in the middle of the work day and then they return to work, or they go on to do whatever they were going to be doing on Fridays. That is something that's an essential part of being a Muslim-American. … Losing that has definitely created distance and space in the community."

Khan said many in the community have had to adapt to this by watching live streams of Friday prayer and either praying by themselves at home or with their families.

This OPB story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.


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