Reopening Policies for Shabbat Morning Services

Reopening Policies for Shabbat Morning Services

Plan Highlights: 

With the recent changes in CDC guidelines and the experience of running services for the past few weeks, we believe that these changes will allow us to maintain our cautious approach while allowing for a more engaging and meaningful prayer experience.

Vaccines or PCR Testing: Our clergy and synagogue leadership strongly recommend that everybody receive a vaccine to protect against Covid-19. If anybody is unable to find or travel to a vaccine center, your synagogue family is more than happy to work with you to problem solve. We recognize that there are some individuals who are unable to go this route. Therefore, beginning this coming Shabbat, admittance to the synagogue will require either proof of vaccine (Vaccine card) or a negative PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test administered no more than 48 hours prior to arriving at services. You are welcome to forward proof of either by email to Jackie Nix ( or show them at the door. Currently, children 16 and under are exempt but we encourage children to keep their masks on when in the building for their own protection.

Masks: When entering and walking through the building masks must be covering both mouth and nose. When sitting in your pod, individuals are welcome to remove their mask. We ask that our masks be worn if/when leaving one's pod and when exiting the building. If you are not vaccinated, we strongly encourage you to remain masked throughout the service even when sitting in your pod. Because of your negative PCR result, you are most unlikely to be able to spread Covid-19 to others. However, people who are vaccinated can give it to you. Therefore, we urge you to remain masked, maintain distance and protect yourself.

Registration: Registration will no longer be required for our services, thanks to the blessing of having a large sanctuary space. Distancing will still be in place, and seat cushions have been removed from many seats to delineating seating between pods. Please remember, do not come to the building if you are feeling ill or have any flu symptoms.

Open Seating: Due to the wonderful compliance that our attendees have shown over the past few weeks, we feel confident that individuals, families, and pods can safely find their own seating instead of having assigned seating. With seat cushions being the marker of available seating, we invite our community to get to services on time and sit in a section which provides an optimal visual and auditory experience.
Thank you for your continued support and patience as we find our way. We are excited to finally be emerging from this very difficult time. However, there is still a road ahead and our continued vigilance will ensure that our congregation, community and world can move forward with strength, health and happiness.

Who Can Attend?

All members are welcome. However, we require either proof of vaccination status or a negative PCR test within 48 hours. You are welcome to forward proof of either by email to Jackie Nix ( or show them at the door. Currently, children 16 and under are exempt but we encourage children to keep their masks on when in the building for their own protection. No individual may attend who has not registered and received confirmation that they have received a spot. Registration alone is not a guarantee of admittance. Spaces are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please do not attend if any of the following are true:

  1. You are sick
  2. You have felt sick in the past two weeks
  3. You have been in close proximity with someone with Covid-19 symptoms and/or someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 in the past two weeks and is not yet fully vaccinated
  4. You are caring for a family member or living with someone who has currently contracted Covid-19 or displaying symptoms thereof
  5. You have been asked to self-isolate

Health and Safety Policies: 

We rely on each member of the community to keep each other safe. Therefore, we ask that you uphold the following safety guidelines and will enforce it if necessary. Failure to adhere to these guidelines, after initial reminders, may impact future ability to register for in-person experiences. While there is no guarantee of safety in attending in-person experience, the following is intended to mitigate risk and exposure as much as possible, while providing for a meaningful in-person experience. Participants participate at their own risk.

  • Upon arrival, all participants will be checked in.
  • Masks are required (covering both nose and mouth) while in entering, exiting or walking through the building. You may remove your mask while seated in your pod in the sanctuary. Masks with valves are not permitted. Masks will be available if needed.
  • Please note that those leading services from the bima will not be masked while they are leading. These leaders will be 20+ ft from any pod. Torah/Haftara readers and those receiving aliyot must wear masks (see ritual changes below).
  • Social distancing rules (6 feet) must be maintained, except among those in the same pod. In the sanctuary, pods will be 10+ ft apart from each other.
  • To accommodate for social distancing pods have been laid out throughout the lower level of the sanctuary. Sit only in pews with cushions on them – that is how we'll mark available and properly spaced seating. Please do not move cushions.
  • Ushers will be present to show you where your seats are located.
  • Tallitot and Kippot will not be provided to reduce shared items – please bring your own if you would like them.
  • Restroom use is restricted to up to one pod at a time. Please be sure to wash hands well after use. Sanitation stations will be provided throughout the building as well.
  • Attendees are expected to stay in the sanctuary throughout the service (other than to use the restroom) and are asked not to shmooze in the hallways or entryway. There will be a dedicated space in Srochi Hall for young children to play if they get antsy.
  • Anyone not adhering to these policies or following the instructions and reminders given will be asked to leave.
  • If you have symptoms of Covid-19 and/or a positive test within 10 days of your attendance, you must let the synagogue know as soon as possible, and all attendees will be notified. All names will remain confidential.
  • Following notification of a positive case of Covid-19 as reported by that attendee, in-person services will be suspended for two Shabbatot.

In addition to the policies above, we've made the following arrangements for the use of our space:

  • Open pews are spread out so that participants only sit with members of their pod.
  • Siddurim (prayer books) and Chumashim (our sacred texts) will already be placed in your spots, and we ask that you leave them there after the service.
  • There will be no kiddush at this time. We ask that all refrain from eating inside our synagogue space.
  • Sanitization stations will be placed around the synagogue for convenient sanitization.
  • At the end of services, we ask everyone to leave directly while remaining distanced, and to refrain from congregating in the building with those outside of your pod.

Ritual Changes: 

For the last year, we have refrained from the recitation of most d'varim shebikdusha, specific liturgy in our service which require an in-person minyan to recite. We are excited, then, to be able to bring these elements back into the service with the presence of a minyan.  

These additions include the:

  • Barechu
  • Kaddishes (Chatzi Kaddish, Kaddish Shalem)
  • Kedusha in the Amidah
  • Torah and Haftarah Blessings
  • Full liturgy of the Torah Service, as well as the full seven aliyot + maftir aliyah (which do not require a minyan, but we have not been fully doing online) 

For the Mourner's Kaddish only, we will continue to count both those in the room and those joining virtually towards a minyan.

There are several adaptations, however, that we will put in place to mitigate risk. The service leader will lead the service from the bima, which is 20+ ft from all pods. This leader will be unmasked while leading only. The two lecterns on the bima will be reserved for these leaders. Service leaders must be physically present in the building.

Torah readers will lead from one of two additional lecterns placed on the floor of the sanctuary in the front. All those participating in the Torah Service, including the service leader, must be masked. When multiple readers are present, two Torah scrolls will be taken out, and readers will alternate reading from each Torah to allow some time for the air to clear around the Torah. For the first several weeks, only Jordan Forman, our ritual director, will be reading Torah as we smooth out the logistics. Shared surfaces will be sanitized between touches.

Those receiving aliyot to the Torah will have a dedicated microphone near but not next to the Torah. They will recite the blessing before the reading at the appropriate time. Those participating virtually will have the opportunity to have aliyot, as well as participate in leading communal readings. A virtual participant may also read the Haftarah. There will be no Hagbah (lifting of the Torah) or G'lilah (wrapping of the Torah) at this time – scrolls will be wrapped on the reading tables. Additionally, there will be no processional of the Torah throughout the room – the Torah will be brought from the ark directly to the reading table.

Can I Still Participate From Home? 

Even as we resume in-person gathering, we are committed to providing an exceptional virtual experience. Thanks to a generous donation from the Reisman family in memory of Shirley Reisman, we have invested significantly in upgrading the audio and visual quality of our stream. This will include multiple cameras, the use of a high-end sound board, and a dedicated sound engineer. This allows us to ensure crisp and uplifting sound, both in the room and virtually. Those who are in person will be able to see and hear those who are online, and those zooming in will be able to participate in the ways outlined in the 'Ritual Changes' section above. All are welcome wherever they may be.


Yom HaShoah: A Day to Remember, A Day of Strength!

Yom HaShoah: A Day to Remember, A Day of Strength!

Tonight begins the Jewish observance of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The official name on our calendar commemoration is YomHaSho'ah v'haGevurah. Although in English we translate HaShoah to mean Holocaust, the word literally means catastrophe. The word Holocaust is derived from the Greek translation of the Olah offering, the sacrifice mentioned in the Bible when the entire animal is consumed on the fire as a sweet and welcomed smell to God.  With this short description, you can see the many problematic layers the term Holocaust evokes which could be remedied only by a name change.

The term Shoah is better, but also lacking. Catastrophe ignores the real moral and ethical underpinnings of this solemn and important day we mark each year on the 27th of Nisan. A catastrophe could be anything.  An avalanche is a catastrophe. A tidal wave is a catastrophe. We would be hard pressed to evaluate and examine the moral responsibility and culpability of snow peaked mountains and waves of the sea. The term Shoah alone feels like a sort of throwing up of our hands rhetorically whispering into the wind, "Oh well, what can we do?"

The second word, HaGevurah, adds an important element to this day which needs to be remembered. There is something we can do. There is something we must do. The word Gevurah means strength or heroism. The stories we tell about the Shoah must not rest with tales of victim-hood and helplessness. There are countless stories about strength, both outer and inner strength. Our families and fellow Jews who did not survive in body from the evils of the Second World War were far from acting like 'sheep to the slaughter' or sacrificial lambs on the altar. Their lives and our memories of them serve as their strength. The evil that was allowed to grow and spread throughout the world, from those times through today, is the true catastrophe. But it's not our catastrophe… it's theirs! We are the keepers of the Gevurah, the strength.  It is our honor to keep their memory alive.

Yom HaShoah Events

Eternal Life Hemshech Commemoration at Greenwood Cemetery's Memorial to the Six Million
Sunday, April 11 | 11 am | More Info
MJCCA Book Festival Yom HaShoah Program
Sunday, April 11 | 2 pm | More Info