Chabad in SWFL closes for second time during pandemic

Reporter: Morgan Rynor Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Sanctuary at Chabad Lubavitch of Southwest Florida in south Fort Myers. Credit: WINK News.

Shabbat is celebrated every weekend in the Jewish faith, similar to church on Sunday in Christianity.

Friday marks the first Shabbat since the Chabad of Southwest Florida announced its doors were closing again.

This is part of a trend taking place across Florida as cases rise.

Chabad Lubavitch of Southwest Florida in south Fort Myers closed its doors in March amid the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When things loosened up back in June, we actually opened up again, and it was really very nice,” Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowicz said.

But with cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiking, Minkowicz started to feel a tense atmosphere at services.

“So we knew it was coming that we would have to close again,” Minkowicz said. “Not because, God forbid, we’re trying to diminish, but we’re trying to make people feel more comfortable in their Judaism. They should feel safe. They should feel comfortable. And if people aren’t safe, you can’t really connect to God.”

The rabbi sent a memo out to congregants, following a trend across the state.

“Many Chabads and other synagogues started actually on the east coast, where it’s more intense than our coast,” Minkowicz said. “They closed right away.”

The Diocese of Venice says all Catholic churches will remain open but at reduced capacity. It requires you to wear a mask and practice social distancing. The Diocese of Venice also offers mass online for those who do not feel comfortable attending church in person.

The Chabad also runs a school, which the rabbi says is in great shape.

“The school is 100% online and it’s been running very, very well,” Minkowicz said. “Parents are very happy. The children are very happy, and, most importantly, people want to feel safe.”

Rabbi Minkowicz is hoping to open the doors to the school and Chabad soon. For now, he says people are really taking to his weekly videos online, knowing faith does not depend on a physical building.

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