NEW YORK (AP) — Sharon Kleinbaum was installed in 1992 as rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, considered the largest LGBT synagogue in the nation. At the time, AIDS was killing thousands of gay New Yorkers each year.
“The CBST community knows what it takes to live through a plague,” Kleinbaum says in a message posted on the synagogue’s website after New York became an epicenter of COVID-19.
Yet the pandemic poses challenges that weren’t present during the AIDS crisis — notably that she’s fulfilling virtually all her duties without face-to-face contact. She mostly works from her apartment in far-northern Manhattan, where she lives with her wife and dogs, 10 miles from the synagogue.
“That I cannot be with people physically is very hard,” Kleinbaum said.
During the AIDS crisis, she recalled, there were no such worries.
“I could be with people. I could hold their hand in the hospital. I could be with their loved ones.”
The Associated Press followed 10 New York City residents on Monday, April 6, as they tried to survive another day in the city assailed by the new coronavirus. For more, read 24 Hours: The Fight for New York.
One key challenge these days is technology, given the congregation’s reliance on digital communications.
“I’m not fluent with tech on the best of days,” Kleinbaum says. “I need to be more fluent very quickly.”