Dear Beth Shalom Community,

V’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoteichem – “you must surely take care of yourselves.” Jewish tradition teaches that we have a sacred responsibility to take care of ourselves and to take care of each other. At Beth Shalom, we take this mitzvah seriously and have decided to adjust some synagogue activities in light of this afternoon’s recommendations from Public Health – Seattle & King County

Following the department’s guidelines against holding large gatherings, we are saddened to share that we will be canceling Friday evening and Shabbat morning services this week (including Cottage Minyan, Prozdor, children’s programs, and Shabbat afternoon learning) as well as Purim evening (including Purim Katan, the Greatest Maariv, and megillah reading).

Following Seattle Public Schools and Public Health – Seattle & King County recommendations about children and schools, Beth Shalom’s Sunday and Tuesday Religious School and Early Childhood Center will continue to operate while following strict guidelines on personal cleanliness and sanitation.

Smaller gatherings, including Purim morning services, weekday minyan, adult education, and youth group programs will continue as scheduled. Please see below for a detailed list.

The Beth Shalom office will be open as usual.

Please keep us informed: If you have been diagnosed with, have been exposed to, or have restrictions from your medical provider related to COVID-19 or other communicable diseases, please contact Carol Benedick. Confidentiality will be respected. We want to make sure that your needs are met as well as those of the community at large.

As Public Health – Seattle & King County continues to issue policy recommendations, we will update this list and alert the community about updates via email, Facebook, and on our website.

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Thursday, March 5

  • Morning minyan – held as scheduled at 7:00 am, with a request for people not to attend if they are feeling sick or at higher risk
  • Thursday connections – held as scheduled at 10:00 am, with a request for people not to attend if they are feeling sick or at higher risk

Friday, March 6

  • Morning minyan – held as scheduled at 7:00 am, with a request for people not to attend if they are feeling sick or at higher risk
  • Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv – canceled
  • USY Shabbat Dinner – canceled
  • Shabbat Chaverim – participants are advised to reach out to their groups and decide if they want to meet

Saturday, March 7

  • Shabbat morning services and all programming – canceled

Sunday, March 8

  • Morning minyan – held as scheduled at 9:30 am, with a request for people not to attend if they are feeling sick or at higher risk
  • Religious School – held as scheduled
  • Purim Carnival – canceled, but religious school classes will include fun and festive Purim activities
  • Teen Purim Lunch- held as scheduled

Monday, March 9

  • Morning minyan – held as scheduled at 7:00 am, with a request for people not to attend if they are feeling sick or at higher risk
  • Erev Purim festivities (including Purim Katan, the Greatest Maariv and Megillah reading) – canceled. Please note we are also investigating ways for people to virtually hear the Megillah read; we will send updates as we have them.

Tuesday, March 10

  • Megillah reading and Purim services — held as scheduled at 7:00 am in the Sanctuary, with a request for people who are feeling sick or at higher risk to not attend
  • Religious School – held as scheduled
  • Teen Learning- held as scheduled

Sunday, March 15

  • Iraqis in Pajamas concert – canceled
  • Food and Friends – participants are advised to reach out to their groups and decide if they want to meet

Friday-Saturday, March 20-21

  • Edwin and Marilyn Bierman Scholar in Residence featuring Dr. Marjorie Lehman – canceled. We are looking into rescheduling for a later date.

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What does all of this mean for observing the mitzvot of Purim?

Hearing the Megillah

Though the ideal is to hear the megillah chanted out of a scroll, reading the megillah in Hebrew or in English is certainly a worthwhile and meaningful Purim activity. The text of the megillah can be found here (https://www.sefaria.org/Esther.1?lang=bi). We are also investigating the possibility of a virtual megillah reading; we will send updates as we have them.

 

Matanot L’Evyonim (Gifts to the Poor)

If you participated in matanot l’evyonim by supporting meals at St. Dunstan’s Church through HappyPurim.com, please know that your donation has already been sent and will be used to serve dinner to people in need on Purim (and on several other days as well). Other ways of giving to the poor can and should be done as usual.

Mishloach Manot (Gifts of Food to Each Other)

You are invited to pick up your Beth Shalom mishloach manot gift at religious school pickup (12:30pm) on Sunday, March 9, or from the CBS office during business hours on Monday or Tuesday. If you are available to help deliver mishloach manot to those who are ill or at higher risk, please contact Melani Baker.

Seudat Purim (Eating a Festive Meal)

There’s no reason for COVID-19 to interfere with eating delicious food, so eat something festive on Tuesday in celebration of Purim!

We wish you strength of body and strength of spirit in these difficult times, and we encourage you to reach out to your neighbors and community members who may be feeling isolated or anxious. If you are comfortable hosting small gatherings for Shabbat or Purim meals, we also encourage you to do so in an effort to be in community and to be there for each other. We also hope that you may still find meaning and joy in the celebrations of Shabbat and Purim, whether that’s through private prayer and study, baking hamentashen, unplugging, giving tzedakah, or spending time with friends and family.

We appreciate your patience, understanding, and partnership as we continue to monitor this rapidly evolving situation. We pray for all of those who are ill, and we eagerly look forward to being able to gather together as a community soon.

Norbert Sorg     Carol Benedick     Rabbi Paula Rose

 


We need and appreciate each individual and family supporting our congregation. Your generosity makes it possible for Beth Shalom to meet the needs of our sacred community.  For those who are able, your additional donations truly make a difference.  There are many ways you can contribute.

RMDs from Retirement Accounts

If you’re over age 70 1/2, you know that you must start taking required minimum distributions (RMD’s) from your retirement accounts.  What you may not know is that you can make tax-free transfers from your IRA to charity (i.e. CBS) and have that count as your RMD.  If you’re over 70 1/2, you can transfer up to $100,000 tax-free from your IRA to qualified charities each year.  These qualified charitable distributions (QCD’s) must be transferred directly from your IRA to the charities in order for them to stay out of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).  Besides lowering your overall taxable income, keeping your AGI lower can also help you avoid paying higher Medicare premiums as well as lower taxes on your social security benefits.  If you are interested in taking advantage of this strategy it is important that you contact your IRA administrator as they all have their own processes to ensure compliance with the IRS rules.  Some require you to fill out a special QCD form while others allow you to write a check directly from your IRA to the charity.  It is also important to bear in mind that these distributions do not qualify as tax-deductible charitable donations.  Also, this does not apply to Roth IRA which has tax-free withdrawals and no required distributions.

Stock and Mutual Fund Donations

Did you know that you can donate your appreciated shares of stocks and mutual funds to the shul?  From 2013 to now, members have transferred over $150,000 (!) worth of appreciated securities to Beth Shalom to satisfy their dues obligations, High Holiday, Double Chai, Sustaining Fund and ATID pledges.  With many stocks and funds at or near record highs and the end of 2017 approaching, this seems like an excellent time to transfer appreciated securities to Beth Shalom.  The process is simple and quick and the cost is extremely low, just $7 per transfer and Emma in the office will be happy to assist you with the transaction.  Your charitable donation is equal to the value of the shares when you transfer them and in addition, because you are donating and not selling the shares, you pay no capital gains taxes!  This is a rare situation where you receive 2 tax benefits – a charitable deduction and avoiding tax on the appreciation in value of the donated shares.

Just a couple of caveats, you can only donate stock and mutual fund shares that you’ve held for more than a year and the proceeds can only be applied toward tax-deductible items like dues, donations and pledges and not tuition payments.  Lastly, it would not be beneficial to donate shares that have not appreciated.  In that case, sell them first and then donate the proceeds.

The process is simple and quick but does take SOME time so to be sure that your stock donation is completed in the 2017 calendar year please plan to transfer your shares ASAP!

Because everyone’s tax situation is different, this should not be construed as tax advice.  If you have any questions you should read IRS Publication 526 and consult your tax professional.

This article should not be construed as tax advice.  Please contact your tax professional to discuss which of these strategies will work best for you given your own unique financial situation.

Tax Law Change – What does it mean for charitable giving?

The US Tax Code has many changes in store, and while there’s no way of knowing what the final version will be, almost all of the versions making their way through Congress include a doubling of the standard deduction, and many include loss of some deductions that those who itemize have taken advantage of for years.

The estimates are that many fewer Americans will be itemizing their returns, which means that the deductions  you may have been able to claim over the past few years may not bring you over the threshold where itemizing is necessary. However, these are still deductible on your taxes if you itemize this year.

What does that mean? Of course, you will want to consult your own tax advisor, but if you currently have a balance with Congregation Beth Shalom, it may be advantageous to pay it this year, rather than wait until after January 1st.

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