From the President


I was at Target last Monday to buy a tube of toothpaste.  Walking past the health and personal care aisles, I noticed a lot of empty spots on the shelves.  Cold medicine and pain relievers were pretty well picked over.  Then I noticed the toothpaste area was also low on stock.  Walking around the store, I realized that the sparse stock was not the result of people stocking up in the face of the coronavirus spread, but it was just that the store had not been restocked after the weekend.

My next stop was Costco.  Usually, it is a good time to go to Costco during the gap between the end of the dates of one “member savings” booklet and the beginning of the next.  This time, the parking lot was almost as crowded as on a weekend (which I avoid if possible).  Looking at what was in the carts in queue at the checkout area, I saw a lot of people buying water and toilet paper.  This, I surmised, was in response to concerns over coronavirus.

I have to admit; we have a habit of picking up a package of toilet paper while shopping “just in case” we were running low at home.  At one time I realized we had many, many packages stacked up in the garage.  We were also amassing quite a stock of Oxy Clean from Costco as we picked one up whenever it was on “member savings.”

It is one thing to pick up an extra package of something “just in case” and another thing to stock up because of a panic.  Panic builds on itself.  A recent article in the New York Post quoted Justin Wolfers, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan.

Even if you’re not freaked out about a pandemic, you worry that everyone else is & they’ll stockpile … & you don’t want to be the left paperless.

Fear of a run on toilet paper — like a run on banks — is enough to create an actual run. And when the runs start we need help. (pun intended.)

Health experts are trying to reassure us that there is no need to panic, at least not yet.  They have been offering practical advice — stay at home if you are sick, clean surfaces more often, avoid touching your face, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then dispose of the tissue, and replace a handshake with a wave or verbal greeting.  Most importantly, wash your hands frequently and correctly.

Washing your hands correctly involves soaping up and rubbing and scrubbing for twenty seconds, then rinsing with warm water.  Twenty seconds is about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday to You twice.  But according to a post on,

“Happy Birthday” is, however, a dumb song. It is hard to sing, and—unless it is your birthday—serves as a sad reminder that it is not your birthday, and you will not be getting any presents. Because it is a dumb song, you may find yourself rushing through it, negating the entire purpose of singing this hard-to-sing song.

The post suggests instead singing the Pizza Bagel Bites jingle. “This song is not only easier to sing than the Happy Birthday, but it reminds you to buy Pizza Bagels, which is good!”  The post helpfully includes a video clip of the jingle from 1996.  I do not have anything against Pizza Bagel Bites per se, but I do recognize that (1) they are an abomination of both pizza and bagels and (2) most varieties contain both meat and cheese, and as Temple President I cannot officially condone their purchase.  I suggest sticking to Happy Birthday to You.  Not only is it undoubtedly more well-known than the Bagel Bites jingle, it may remind you to buy cake, which is also good!

At Temple Beth Emet with will be monitoring official information and taking appropriate precautions with regard to our services and events, our preschool and our religious school.  We hope you will do the same.  It is not a time to panic, but please, remember to wash your hands, whatever you decide to sing.

— IRA L. GOLDSTEIN, President