Dear Sinai Community:
Spring with its promise of renewal seems doubly hopeful this year. As more and more people get the COVID vaccine, we can feel our frozen lives begin to melt. This is an exciting time in a lot of ways, but it also remains a challenging time. We are reaching out with an update of how we are gradually, yet cautiously, making a return to in-person activity at the temple.
Over the past four weeks, our clergy have been leading Friday night services together from the sanctuary and Bet Am while the congregation has joined from home via Zoom. This Saturday morning, we will begin holding b’nei mitzvah services in-person with limited attendance in the Bet Am. We are doing so within the guidelines set by the District of Columbia:
- a maximum of 30 attendees (25% capacity) in addition to the clergy and staff,
- everyone is required to wear a mask and complete a health screening before entry,
- household clusters will be seated at least six feet apart, and
- singing aloud will be significantly curtailed.
While we know some members of the congregation will be pleased with this development, we appreciate that others will want us to open up more, or less. Indeed, we know that the rules have been changing very quickly and at times we have opted for a more cautious approach than public guidelines allow. But we have always and will continually consult the D.C. rules and medical experts as we update our policies. We know these changes can be confusing and disruptive. We hear all of your concerns and share the frustration that we are not yet where we want to be. However, we hope you understand that the pace of the changes reflects the complications of myriad new requirements and precautions, technological and building challenges, and more.
For now, most of us will continue with virtual Shabbat services and other temple activities, while our clergy and small groups of life cycle celebrants return to the Bet Am.
As we slowly start the reopening process, we face an extra layer of challenges stemming from the renovation of the main sanctuary. The months-long work is expected to begin any day and will make our largest indoor worship space unavailable until Rosh HaShanah. We look forward to the day when we return to worship and gathering in much larger numbers with the beautiful new sanctuary to match our congregational renewal.
High Holy Days
We have also begun to plan for the special challenge of the High Holy Days. While we expect to have some form of in-person gathering for these services we anticipate that D.C. pandemic limitations will continue to place serious restrictions on the number of people who can attend. Therefore, we are planning a hybrid of live services with in-person attendance and Zoom or other streaming capability to meaningfully engage the majority of our members virtually. If the government restrictions allow more in-person attendance, we will adjust accordingly.
Of course, we are continually considering ways to further re-open. Our clergy, board, and other lay volunteers are working on plans to further expand in-person Shabbat services, classes, and meetings over the coming months.
We are aware of the personal burden we each carry from this difficult time. We have lost so much. The reopening that is happening around us can be a reminder of those losses. For some this may be an anxious time. As always, our clergy is here for you.
We are so looking forward to seeing you in person again. Soon. Until then, wishing you good health, vaccine appointments, and a joyous Spring.
Rabbi Jonathan Roos