Update from the CBI Board about the Days of Awe

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Dear Congregation Beth Israel Members and Friends,

The CBI Board and Rabbi just met to discuss current COVID rates in our constituent towns and across the county, and to re-evaluate our high holiday plan in light of current realities. As of now, our plan for the Days of Awe is as follows: 

  1. We will be holding hybrid / multi-access services, limiting capacity to ~45 so that pods can be 6 feet apart. Masks are required, with no exceptions. As a reminder, our erev Rosh Hashanah offering will be a Rosh Hashanah seder, held online only; here’s a list of items to have on hand for that digital community experience.
  2. All onsite participants over the age of 12 must be vaccinated. Parents who want to bring unvaccinated children (under the age of 12) with them into the service may do so, as long as the children remain masked and socially distanced, and as long as they are pre-registered for a seat or can sit on a parent’s lap. We will not require proof of vaccination; we trust our members to be truthful.  We will check people off the registration list at the door so that we can facilitate contract tracing in the event of a COVID diagnosis. 
  3. Childrens’ services will be held outdoors at 10am on Rosh Hashanah morning 1 and on Yom Kippur morning, with masks and social distancing. Please register with the CBI Office if you are bringing child/ren to the childrens’ service so we know how many kids to expect. (If there is mist or light rain, bring an umbrella or rain jacket to childrens’ services! If the weather is truly inclement, we will not be able to hold childrens’ services — in that case we will post on the CBI Facebook that morning to let everyone know.) 
  4. All are welcome to join us online in the synagogue Zoom room. We will offer a robust Zoom option so that those participating online can fully take part in our high holiday experience. This allows us to welcome those who are immunocompromised, those who are at greater medical risk, and those who are homebound to participate in our Days of Awe — as well as those who aren’t on the onsite list for any given service. 

Our guiding Jewish values in this decision are pikuach nefesh (saving life) and kol Yisrael arevim zah bazeh (all of us are responsible for each other; we are responsible for our community together.) Our job, as Rabbi and Board, is to serve this community and to keep this community safe. This is our best sense of how to live up to those values.

Now that we have evaluated recent local COVID levels and reached this plan, we will work on figuring out who can come to each service onsite, based on your responses to our registration form (sent in July and in every weekly announcements email since.) If you have not yet responded, please do so by August 25. Registering and ranking your preferred services is the only way to get on the registration list for onsite services. We may not be able to give everyone their first choice. We will do our best. We are compiling registration lists now for each service, and we will be in touch to share those lists so you know which service(s), if any, you will be attending onsite.

Some have asked why we’re not renting a tent. When we explored that option early in the summer, we learned that in order to proceed with a tent, we would need to reserve and pay for one immediately. The expense would be large, and we would still be limited in space / configuration because of the layout of our available land. At that time, the Delta variant had not reached us. Based on these factors, and based on the results from our survey of the membership about what people wanted, we made the decision then to forego the tent. 

This is our current plan, crafted with our deepest hopes for a sweet and meaningful holiday season. And, as we’ve learned in the past year, we need to be prepared to pivot if the situation shifts. Please continue to keep an eye out for communications from CBI. If the COVID situation worsens, we will move to offering all-digital services as we did last year.  

Wishing you blessings as we approach the Days of Awe,

The CBI Board of Directors 

(Chris Kelly, President; Natalie Matus, Vice-President; Michael Smith, Treasurer;  Paulette Wein, Clerk; Joe Apkin, David Lane, Darlene Radin, and Ben Rudin) 

and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat