KI Announcements

Dear Chevre;

This short communication is to let you know that the KI Board met (online via Zoom) and agreed upon some strategies for keeping connected while abiding by social distancing.  We want everyone to stay healthy and safe.  We hope that all of you are following the recommended guidelines.

KI will remain closed at least until April 5th.  At that time, we will reconvene and decide if we should stay closed longer.  There will be no services or meetings held at KI until further notice. Katherine will be in the office one or two days a week, so if you must see her, schedule time to meet or talk with her.  Katherine is able to do her KI work from home and will have all calls transferred to her phone. Feel free to call the KI office (517-882-0049) if you have any questions.   Frank, our custodian, has disinfected virtually everything in the building.

  1. Rabbi Zimmerman will attempt to stream services that we can all access from home. The videos should be available on Facebook and other social media. Watch for more info on that.

  2.  Sadly, we made the decision to cancel KI’s second seder this year.

  3. We have decided to postpone the Rabbi Zimmerman’s farewell party.  We hope to be able to reschedule it for sometime in June, if it is safe.

  4.  We will attempt to put out a newsletter for April although it could be that the situation and recommendations can change between the time the newsletter is printed and the time you receive it.

  5. The weekend visit by Rabbi Moshe Givental has been postponed.  We hope to be able to have him come the weekend of April 17-19, but again, only if it will be safe.

  6. Kirsten and Robin are going to meet (again, not in person) to discuss ways where our Bikkur Cholim service can be expanded to help those who are at too great a risk to run necessary errands.  Until this is all figured out, please contact Robin should you need someone to pick up groceries, prescriptions, etc.  She will arrange for these types of errands to be run.

That is, it for now.  Please check your email regularly for updated information. You can also check KI’s website,, or our face book page for updated information.  Leon, Robin and the Board welcome your thoughts and suggestions.
L’Briut (to your good health),
Robin Willner & Leon Putler, co-presidents.

A Message From the Rabbi

A message from the rabbi

Dear Friends at KI,

A couple of days ago I came home from a peaceful trip in isolation up north. After seeing nobody for 3 days and being more or less off the grid, it was a shock to return to what felt like a strange new world. One thing immediately became clear: as long as you need to be in self-quarantine, we at KI need to let you know that we are here for you, we are thinking of you, we are praying for you, and the Board and I are in the process of setting in motion quite a number of activities to bring KI to you.

I sent a message earlier about the forthcoming online Shabbat service. I envision that we broadcast all planned services, not to mention classes and social-cultural activities. If I have my way, we will no longer announce that an activity has been “cancelled.’ Through communication technology we can bring nearly everything we do to most KI homes. If you own a computer and have an internet connection, we can help you access simple forms of video conferencing.

We are working to expand bikkur cholim so everyone who is isolated and in an “at-risk” category can get food, supplies, or whatever else you need.

Most importantly, know that KI is here for you. Even though our facilities are closed, Katherine will be working from home to answer your questions and service your needs. The Board and other congregational leaders are working with me to develop programs and activities. And I am completely here for you in this current period of isolation. If you need to talk, do not hesitate to contact me. And hopefully by that time I will have already contacted you.

>From my contacts both in the Jewish world and in the interfaith world, there is an incredible amount of creative and exciting work being done to reach out to congregational members and offer support. There are far more options available than we have the time and the staff to provide, but we will do what we can. I am always ready to provide resources and offer recommendations, but I believe that we can best serve your needs if you let us know what these are. Please contact me with your needs, your wishes, and your suggestions. How can we be there for you, and for your friends in the congregation?

Regretfully neither medical interventions, social isolation, nor prayer will make this pandemic vanish as quickly as it descended on us; at the same time these “weapons” of science, hygiene, and religion will all play a significant role in limiting the number of severe cases. We are all doing our part, and even if we can’t hug one another or tear challah together we can still be a community of love, support, and connection. Our people have survived for thousands of years, enduring the most unimaginable hardships. And we will survive the current scourage, most likely emerging as a stronger, more cohesive tribe than we were before.

With blessings and prayers of health and safety for you and your loved ones,

Rabbi Michael Zimmerman

Article on coronavirus from our very own, Nigel Paneth.

Michigan State University physician-epidemiologist and public health specialist Nigel Paneth tells ELi people here need to see COVID-19 as a more serious threat than many people are seeing it. He characterized responses to the pandemic as an “under-reaction,” calling it an “urgent” situation.

The good news? Actions taken at the local level can save people in local communities.

If the East Lansing community works together, we stand a chance of avoiding the worst-case scenario where hospitals become overwhelmed and people die as a result – not just of coronavirus but also of car accidents, heart attacks, and other “normal” life-threatening problems that could be survivable but will not be able to be treated if there are no more ICU beds and not enough doctors and nurses.

Are current responses to the COVID-19 pandemic hysteria and overreaction? Why or why not?

Dr. Paneth emphatically responded that the risk of COVID-19 cannot be overblown, stating that he had never seen such a public health threat in his life. He is no rookie in the medical field, having earned his M.D. from Harvard in 1972.

Paneth cautions that the U.S. may face an Italy-like situation in a couple of weeks. Italy currently has 24,700 cases and 1,809 deaths. So far, infection rates of COVID-19 in the U.S. have mimicked Italy, and our health care system may not be equipped to take on thousands of sick people in need.

For those who think that Italy’s case is due to an inherently weaker medical system, Paneth says, “think again.” While Italy may have fewer hospital beds in absolute numbers, Italian hospitals actually have 20% more beds per capita than the U.S. ones. Northern Italy, the epicenter of the European pandemic also has some of the best intensive care units and doctors in the world.

Above: Nigel Paneth (photo courtesy of MSU)

What can we do in East Lansing?

We can mitigate the worst-case scenario by severely limiting personal contacts, going further than the measures we have in place now. Paneth advocates for an immediate closure of all restaurants, bars, places of worship, and any other place where large crowds may gather. Only the necessities, such as pharmacies and grocery stores, should remain open. (Note: Today, the governor announced the closure of all in-dining service in Michigan. Paneth told ELi yesterday that take-out and delivery can generally be considered safe.)

The community also needs to consider the outcomes of decisions it makes. Paneth called MSU “wise” for suspending in-person classes, but pointed to what followed as a point of concern. With no immediate academic concerns, MSU students crowded into bars and frat houses. Many subsequently left East Lansing, it is possible that they carry the virus with them and can pass it along to others who are more susceptible to COVID-19.

Why does “flattening the curve” matter?

Flattening the curve means delaying and shrinking the peak caseload of COVID-19 cases. Instead of having the number of cases peak rapidly, a flattened curve results when the population more gradually contracts the virus.

But we need to do much more in terms of social distancing.

Paneth called for people to stay home and cancel dinners and parties with friends. At a personal level, Paneth’s daughter has kept his grandchild from seeing him. Children seem to carry the virus while appearing asymptomatic or experiencing a mild case. They can then act as vectors, passing the virus on to others who are more vulnerable to its affects.

Keeping people away from other people limits transmission of the virus. If the virus cannot find new hosts, it will eventually die off, stopping the spread of the pandemic.

We know many people are likely to get this virus. So what are we trying to avoid?

According to Paneth, flattening the curve will help prevent our health care system from being overrun. If too many people succumb at once, hospitals will not have enough beds, ventilators, or other supplies to treat patients. That means that not only will some people die needlessly of coronavirus, some who might have otherwise been saved will die from car accidents, drug overdoses, the flu, and random heart attacks.

Flattening the curve also buys time for medical researchers to develop therapeutic options. A vaccine still may some ways away, but Paneth mentioned that convalescent serum might be a useful tool in the meantime. The use of convalescent serum involves taking the antibodies of those who have recovered from the virus – by taking their blood – and giving the antibodies to someone else to help their weaker immune system fight the virus.

What would crisis look like?

Paneth foresees two possible major crises in the pandemic. The first would affect health care workers who frequently come into contact with the sick. These workers could be hospitalized themselves or sent home to stop the spread of the disease if they become ill. This might mean we have far fewer health care workers just when we need many more.

The other crisis would affect the elderly. In China, 95% of deaths occurred in those over age 50. In Italy, that number is about 98%. People under 40 seem to have very high survival rates.

While convalescent serum could help the elderly, Paneth believes an absolute lockdown of nursing homes is also important in protecting the elderly. Staff working in these locations should also self-isolate outside of work hours. He pointed to King County, Washington, where nearly 20 people died in nursing homes from COVID-19. This, he says, could happen anywhere.

In short, flattening the curve through social distancing is essential in making sure that those who provide medical care are able to do so. It also protects those most vulnerable to the disease.

Should we all just try to get infected now and get it over with? Should we try to make some herd immunity that way?

Countries across the globe have taken various approaches to combatting COVID-19. Britain has done very little so far to stem the tide of cases, and some in government there have cited the idea of “herd immunity.” That’s the theory that, if enough people suffer from the disease, the society will become resistant to it, preventing the eruption of subsequent waves of the pandemic.

Paneth explained that 70% of a population needs to be infected and develop the antibodies against a virus for the herd – that would be us – to become immune. In the United States, this would mean 200 million people contracting the virus.

The outcome would be catastrophic. The death rate of COVID-19 is somewhere between 1% and 3%. This means somewhere between 2 million and 6 million people dying in the attempt to achieve herd immunity.

Paneth said in this scenario we would all know at least someone who died. This method provides no protection for the elderly, many of whom would die. Young people would also die in this scenario.

Herd immunity is only really achievable with a vaccine Paneth said, and we don’t have one now. So, we return to flattening the curve. It is unlikely that the U.S. will adopt China’s effective yet authoritarian approach to stopping the spread of the virus.

The bottom line?

Paneth was blunt: We need to wake up. We need more social distancing, particularly for the elderly. As children stay home from school, it should not be grandparents watching them.

The good news? We don’t need government orders to social distance or isolate. We can undertake and model that behavior ourselves. Communities that take this advice seriously now may wind up being the pockets of the country that avoid the worst outcomes of this pandemic.

REMINDER: The City of East Lansing is under a State of Emergency and you are encouraged to practice social distancingRead more about what the state of emergency means. ELi has a special section dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for East Lansing. See it here and sign up for ELi’s mailer to stay informed.

Note: The original version of this article indicated “Italian hospitals actually have 50% more beds per capita than the U.S. ones.” That has been corrected to 20% after a follow-up from Dr. Paneth.


KI Responding to the Coronavirus


      We have been monitoring the Coronavirus situation like all of you, both as it pertains to our state and nation as a whole, and how faith-based institutions are making decisions about their activities. As KI is a values-based decision making organization, weighing the costs and benefits of meeting the needs of our community at this time has been difficult. Rabbi Zimmerman laid out many of the Jewish values involved for the Executive Committee of the Board as we were deliberating electronically over the past couple of days. We will be happy to share these thoughts at another time. But we want to keep this short for now.

      Services (minyan) for Saturday, March 14th at KI are canceled. We do this out of our sacred obligation of mutual responsibility for our members, and to the greater community to which we all belong. As of yesterday, Shaarey Zedek was planning to hold services tonight and tomorrow for those who want to attend there in place of KI. The KI Board will be meeting next week to discuss how we will proceed with services next week and beyond, as well as how we will handle other KI scheduled activities. And for those not involved with our religious school, Kivunim is moving to an online format starting this weekend for the foreseeable future.

     Please join us in following health and safety guidelines during this trying time including social distancing as much as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact either of us by phone or email.


Leon Puttler       Robin Willner

Co-President       Co-President

KIvunim Annouoncment 3-12-20

In light of the arrival of COVID-19 in Michigan, KIvunim will move to online instruction starting Sunday, 3/15.  These are hard and challenging times for all of us, and my number one priority is to make sure that we can continue instruction without risking the health of any of our members and KIvunim staff– both Sarah Fox-Long and I are at elevated risk due to asthma.

On Sunday, I will work with each of our families in groups of 2-families to get you oriented to using Zoom.  Please let me know if you have a tablet or laptop that has a camera on it.  If not, your child/grandchild can still participate, I just won’t be able to see them.  Please pick a time for the zoom orientation by selecting a spot:

Looking forward to seeing you all on-line.  I will send a zoom link to you just before your time slot.

We will continue to evaluate the situation and will consider resuming face to face classes when possible.

Nicole Ellefson
School Director
Kehillat Israel’s KIvunim School
2014 Forest Road
Lansing, MI  48910
(517) 882-0049