Reopening Updates: Shabbat Services and High Holy Days
The following email was sent to our congregation on June 16, 2021
Dear Fellow Congregant,
We are delighted to announce important updates about our Synagogue operations, including our current plans for Shabbat and High Holy Days worship, in light of our city’s, state’s, and country’s continued progress in coming through the COVID-19 pandemic.
We want to start with an unambiguous statement that these developments are rooted in our core Jewish value of Pikuach Nefesh – the preservation of life – which has guided us throughout these past 15 months.
The progress we have made, and our ability to be together, worship together, hug each other, and get back to some semblance of normality is all due to the scientific miracle of the vaccines available to us.
We believe wholeheartedly that we are more than just a collection of individuals. We are a community. And the right thing for our community to do is for every single person who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine to get one as soon as possible. It is also the Jewish thing to do. Our Talmud teaches that when a person saves a life, it is as if they have saved the whole world. Our individual decisions to receive the vaccine can save a life beyond our own.
The three of us – your Rabbi, your Executive Director, and your President (who also happens to be a medical doctor) – cannot stress enough our desire to see every single congregant who is eligible get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Over the past several weeks, we have carefully and thoughtfully adjusted our procedures and practices to enable the resumption of more in-person activities. Now, following discussions with our Central Synagogue COVID-19 task force of experts and Executive Committee, we are further aligning our approach in a way that is consistent with the latest CDC and New York State guidelines:
- As of July 2, all vaccinated members may attend weekly Shabbat services in person. Masking will be optional and social distancing will be encouraged. Members will be required to show proof of vaccination for entry, which may include your vaccination card or the Excelsior pass. Once you attend and are registered in the system with your vaccination status, you will no longer have to continue to show proof. We will be sending a follow-up email with additional logistics about Shabbat worship before July 2.
- For High Holy Days, we are planning services at our normal capacity, with proof-of-vaccination required for all worshippers. Masks will be optional, but of course, you are welcome to continue wearing your mask if you choose. As many of you know, David Geffen Hall is not available to us for the High Holy Days, and we are finalizing details on an alternative location. We will provide more information about the High Holy Days in July, including the service schedule, guest policies, and ticketing information. We are also exploring options for Family Services to welcome those under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
- Effective immediately, our sanctuary will be available for funerals. All attendees and guests will be required to wear a mask at all times, regardless of vaccination status, and those events will be socially distanced, with a maximum of 600 people (50% capacity). We will share plans for other lifecycle events in the coming weeks.
- We recognize that not everyone is ready to gather in person and that some of you may choose to stay at home this year for one or all services. We will continue to broadcast robust and meaningful services through our website, Facebook Live, YouTube, and the Jewish Broadcasting Service (JBS). Closed captioning is available on our website.
- As of August 15, we will require all Central Synagogue staff to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or obtain an approved exemption as an accommodation.
- If you have a child under 12 or are ineligible for a vaccination due to medical reasons and would like to attend worship services, please email our Membership Department at [email protected] or call 212-838-5122 x3084 to receive a medical or other accommodation. Email is preferred if possible, as it enables us to respond more promptly to your requests.
- All unvaccinated individuals entering our buildings for worship, including children, will be required to wear masks, participate in a health screening, and show proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours each and every time they enter the Sanctuary.
These plans may be adjusted further should circumstances change, but we are hopeful that as our city continues to move in a positive direction, the return to normal life that we are already beginning to enjoy will enable us to welcome the new year 5782 safely and together.
Our plans for the upcoming school year remain unchanged for our May Family Nursery School and LCLJ religious school families, with Nursery School continuing in person as it did this past year, and LCLJ aiming to offer both in-person and virtual options. We will continue to offer a wide range of compelling Adult Engagement opportunities, some in-person and others virtual. We will share our protocols for these programs shortly.
We look forward to continuing to move past this trying time in our history and toward a brighter future.
Angela W. Buchdahl
Shonni Silverberg, MD
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