With the foundation for the new expansion laid, concrete for the exterior walls and support beams are being poured layer by layer. Each week can see the walls rising, and the earth being flattened to form the floor-bed of the addition. Inspired by the excitement from Nursery and Religious School students about the ongoing construction, we have also installed “view-windows” in our construction site fencing. Now students will be able to watch the machinery and construction happen as they play in our playground!
Based on a creative idea from the Temple Sinai Nursery School leadership, the new “outdoor classroom,” tucked away between the Bet Am and the school wing, provides our littlest students with a cozy and secure area all their own. What was once an unused space is now filled with inviting activity stations and a natural setting for learning and play. Visible from the Bet Am, this beautiful play space allows all congregants to feel connected to the joy and creativity emanating from Temple Sinai Nursery School students and faculty.
With the demolition completed, the foundation (both literally and figuratively) of our new expansion is being laid! Over the past two weeks, successive layers of concrete have been poured, forming the beginnings of the new exterior walls. You can start to see the expansion’s outline taking shape—an exciting time for us and the Nursery School students eagerly watching through the barrier fence. Over the coming weeks the foundation will continue to be set and the walls will continue to grow (and we’ll be cutting portholes so the children can get a better look)!
The demolition portion of the renovation & expansion project is almost complete and we will be ready to move on to construction in the next week or so! Here you can see the visible yellow painted outline where the borders of the new South Addition will be, as well as the demolition of the side of the current building that will connect to the South Addition. Progress has also been made to clear the way for the boardwalk path that will lead from Jocelyn Street to the new South Addition entrance and where trees will be planted to create a healthy tree canopy for years to come. Keep an eye out for more updates in the coming weeks as new concrete footers are poured and other foundation work begins!
As we begin the 2022-2023 school year:
- Vaccination of children under age 5 available; while not required at TSNS at this time, COVID-19 vaccination is strongly recommended.
- TSNS will be mask-optional except when community levels in DC or Montgomery County are “high”, or when we note significant trends in our TSNS community that warrant a return to masking.
- Masking will not be required outside.
- No covid fees are being assessed at TSNS.
- Antigen tests are widely available at no cost; we are requesting that families use their own tests when requested to provide antigen test results.
- The playground is open and ready for fun!
- Children from different classes will be able to mix for activities such as Rainbow Days and the Temple Sinai Early Birds Program; if it becomes advisable from a public health perspective to return to strict cohorting indoors we will evaluate how these programs may continue to operate based on staffing and other factors.
- Children will be able to enjoy proximity to one another now that we will not be implementing physical distancing as a mitigation strategy.
- Snack and lunch may now be enjoyed indoors.
- There is no requirement to quarantine or test after traveling for any members of our community, regardless of vaccination status.
- We will follow OSSE and DC Health guidelines for Child Care Programs and will also be guided by CDC recommendations for best practices (where not in conflict with OSSE and DC Health guidelines). We will consult with our COVID-19 Advisory Group and TSNS Pediatric Consultant as needed.
- No daily health screening form will be required of staff or children; HOWEVER, rules about attending school with any symptom of covid remain the same – in order to attend school after experiencing any symptom of covid, all members of the community (faculty, staff, child, regardless of vaccination status) must have either a negative PCR test or a doctor’s note clearing them.
- Vaccinated close contacts may return to school, masked for 10 days (KN/KF) following the close contact. They should be PCR tested for covid at least five days after exposure.
- If there is a covid-positive individual in their household from whom they cannot isolate, a vaccinated close contact may return to school, but must remain masked (KN/KF) for the isolation period of that individual (at least five days, or until that individual tests negative/Day 11), plus remain masked for an additional 10 days.
- Unvaccinated close contacts may return to school following a one-time contact; HOWEVER, they must submit a negative antigen test every morning before arriving to school for 5 days (“test to stay”) and remain masked (KN/KF) for 10 days following the contact.
- If there is a covid-positive individual in their household from whom they cannot isolate, an unvaccinated close contact must remain HOME for the isolation period of that individual (at least five days, or until that individual tests negative/Day 11), plus remain home for an additional 5 days. They may then return after a negative PCR test, remaining masked (KN/KF) for another 5 days.
- We will return to regular cleaning protocols as required by OSSE and NAEYC, with special attention still paid to high-touch surfaces around the building.
- Bathrooms will be able to be used freely (and not based on gender); it is recommended that only one class be in the bathroom at a time as feasible.
The Nursery School year has started and the building is filled with new and returning students! Students can now explore the completed the Outdoor Classroom, located between the Bet Am and the upstairs classrooms, and watch as construction workers work on the renovation. The demolition and removal of the south entrance concrete walkway and brick siding of the construction site is underway as the building is prepared for the expanded south addition. The site is also fully fenced off and noise barriers have been erected in the building to minimize disruptions to events, services, and classes going on inside the temple.
Work is well underway on improvements to the playground, including the addition of a creative, new Outdoor Classroom for the Nursery School children being developed in the garden area outside the Bet Am. Meanwhile, our General Contractor has begun the preparatory and demolition work for the South Addition. Throughout the month of August we will see the fencing go up that will create a safe separation for the construction zone, tree clearing, and significant demolition necessary for the new 2-story addition. Stay tuned for updated information and pictures as this transformational project progresses.
In late June, the Temple Sinai community joined together for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the commencement of this once-in-a-generation project. The ceremony included music from our talented clergy, remarks from our campaign leaders, and prayer honoring this occasion. The South Addition and Phase 2 expansion marks the next step in the long growth of our spiritual home: From our community’s early history operating out of a church in the 1950s, to buying the land the temple currently stands on and building the initial temple, to expanding with the Library & school-wing construction in the 1970s, to building the Bet Am in the 1990s, we continue to grow to meet the needs of our community and enrich the religious lives of our members.
“Camp friends are the best friends.” You may have seen this phrase pop up on social media or heard people say it in your presence, particularly during the summer as parents across the country send their children off to summer camp. For me, that statement has dual meaning, one as a parent, and one as a former camper and counselor myself. I’ve been fortunate in my life to come of age, discover myself, and crystalize my Jewish identity through a remarkable Jewish camp. The relationships and friendships I made through camp are the most genuine and long-lasting of my life, outside of my own family. And my husband and I have been able to give our children the same gift – this summer will be their 6th summer at URJ Camp Harlam.
I began my summer camp journey very young when my father was a rabbinical student at HUC-JIR. My parents decided to spend a summer at a B’nai B’rith family camp in Pennsylvania, with my dad serving on faculty. I was too young to really have memories of that experience, but that summer embedded a love of Jewish summer camp in my parents that led them to send me to camp on my own as soon as I was old enough. I’m sure people thought my parents were crazy for sending an eight-year-old to sleepaway camp for almost four weeks. And I was definitely homesick that first summer. But it was special, and their decision changed my life. I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana where there was a small Jewish community, and very few Jews my own age. At camp, I was surrounded by a community of young, energetic Jewish people. I was exposed to worship infused with joyful Jewish music and engaged in Jewish learning that left me wanting more. Shabbat was magical in a way I had never known. I still find worship in an outdoor setting transports me back to camp’s beit t’fillah in the woods. And when I need calm and peace, I hear my camp community singing the Shechechianu in harmony, multiple songleaders playing guitar in the background.
I spent my first two summers at URJ’s Olin Sang Ruby in Wisconsin, but my formative camp experiences were at URJ’s Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, Indiana (commonly called GUCI). I was a camper at GUCI for 4 summers, followed by a summer in the Avodah program where we served as the maintenance for camp for the summer. Yes, I voluntarily cleaned toilets, washed dishes, worked in the camp office, and collected trash around camp for 9 weeks and loved it. Then I worked as a counselor for three summers, finally seeing the “other side” of how camp magic is made.
My camp friends are truly my best friends. No matter how long it’s been or how far we live from one another, we pick up exactly where we left off. With my camp friends, I laugh with my whole body, smile constantly, and know I can share anything with them – good or difficult. At GUCI, we have another saying, “wherever you go, there’s always someone GUCI.” And how true this is. Wherever I go, I seem to encounter someone who is connected to GUCI. That bond is strong – all from spending a few short weeks together as youth.
When our children were nearing the appropriate age, I was excited about the idea that they would have the same positive experiences I had at camp. But then my parental feelings also started to kick in. Were they too young to be away from home? They’d never even slept at a friend’s house before, let alone at camp with a bunk of strangers for 3 ½ weeks. I started having anxiety about how much I would miss them and worry about whether they would be homesick or if they would make new friends easily. So we went to visit URJ Camp Harlam for ourselves. We arrived at Camp Harlam to staff saying “Welcome Home!” By the end of the tour, our daughters wanted to know why they couldn’t just stay. The decision was made, and it’s been an incredible six years so far.
This summer will be our twin daughters’ final summer as campers at Camp Harlam. For three of their six summers at camp they’ve chosen to go both sessions, spending 7 weeks at their summer home. They spend 10 months of the year dreaming about and counting down the days until they get to spend two months at camp. Another saying, “10 for 2.” They’ve made friends that will last a lifetime, and they have solidified their Jewish identities in the most positive, encouraging, and supportive environment. In 2023, our girls will go with Camp Harlam to Israel, a summer they’ve been talking about for years.
This year, I was asked by Camp Harlam to serve on their Camp Council. The Camp Council is a group of lay leaders tasked with serving as ambassadors for camp and supporting the professional staff. In many ways, it’s the perfect next step for me. I have loved camp my whole life, and I was able to share that with my own family. Now, I can share it with you as well. Our Temple Sinai community has a close bond with URJ Camp Harlam, and I look forward to strengthening that important relationship. So if you are considering sending your children to camp, I’d love to talk with you. I can’t wait to welcome home more of our Sinai families at Camp Harlam.
Debbie M. Rappaport
Our shared commitment to keeping our community safe and healthy is what will allow us to enjoy these last weeks of the year together with the fewest interruptions. As you know, there are several elements of our ongoing Covid protocols, including daily health screening and surveillance testing. While community levels of Covid were low, we were able to relax our masking requirement and offer the option of unmasking outside and indoors.
Unfortunately, community levels in DC are now at medium, so we will be returning to required masking indoors, and recommended masking outside. You may still send your child to school in any well-fitting mask you prefer, unless community levels increase further, in which case we will also return to a requirement that all children, faculty, and staff wear KN95 or KF94 masks.
- Please ensure that you send your child to school with additional masks in case they need to be changed during the day.
- Please also let your child’s teachers know if you wish to change your preference for outdoor masking in light of the uptick in Covid community levels.
The increase in Covid cases in our area also means that our surveillance testing and daily health screening are more important tools to control Covid spread in our community than ever. As you prepare for your child to return to TSNS next week, please note the following:
- All children, faculty, and staff must complete a two consecutive day antigen testing protocol before they return to TSNS for the first time after break
- The first test must be completed the day before returning to school, and the second must be completed the morning of the return to school;
- Each test must be labeled by name and date; and
- A photo of the labeled and dated test results must be sent the day they were administered to email@example.com (please do not send photos of both tests on the same day).
- If your child was not at school before the break you may not have received your next set of antigen tests; please use your own tests and you’ll receive two new antigen tests in your child’s tote bag when they return to school.
- Please note that we will be unable to permit attendance at TSNS without the submission of two properly administered and labeled antigen tests showing negative results.
- Please be on the lookout for any symptoms of Covid including, but not limited to, runny nose, fatigue, headache, sore throat, nausea, fever, coughing, aches and chills, and otherwise feeling unwell.
- We recognize that there is a significant overlap between Covid symptoms and seasonal allergies, and that several families have submitted doctor’s notes about allergies as an underlying condition that causes these symptoms. Please err on the side of caution and, if any of the symptoms of Covid arise, get a PCR test to clear yourself or your child rather than assuming that allergies or other non-Covid illnesses are the cause of these symptoms.
- Similarly, if someone in your household is exhibiting symptoms, please consider having everyone in the household PCR tested.
- Please let us know immediately if any member of your household tests positive for Covid so that we can inform you of the most up-to-date DC Health requirements for isolation and quarantine.