Today is February 29, 2024 /

High Holiday COVID Protocols

Dear WJC Family,

Please read this email carefully for important information about COVID protocols for the High Holidays.

As you know from prior communications, in addition to the live stream from the sanctuary we will be offering a number of options for in-person participation in High Holiday services this year. These include:

In the sanctuary

  • Inside service

In open-sided tents set up in different areas of our shul property

  • Outside service
  • Family services (in two shifts, details to be sent directly to participants)
  • Youth services
  • Teen service
  • “A Musical Path to Return” service by Neshama Carlebach and our clergy (September 1) 
  • Contemporary “Return, Renew and Rejoice” service (the evening of September 6 before Rosh HaShanah evening services)

Over the next several days we will send a separate communication to the registrants for each service with logistical information specific to each individual experience, including tickets and seat/pod assignments. The purpose of this email is to apprise you of the COVID-related protocols that will apply to all of these services and events. The protocols we are using are made under the guidance of our Covid Task Force, which relies on the advice of the CDC and other medical authorities, as well as an awareness of the varying risk tolerances of the members of our congregational family. 

We will require that all attendees of all services, whether inside the building or in outdoor tents, be masked at all times regardless of vaccination status. The only exceptions will be children under 2 and those presenting from the podium such as clergy and prayer-leaders.

We also ask that you maintain a safe distance at all times from those outside your designated “pod” while in the building or in the tents. We know this is hard. The High Holidays are a time when we want to be together and hug one another, and we wish it could be so this year.  But safety comes first.

Please keep in mind that we do not have the staff to monitor everyone’s compliance with masking and distancing protocols – we are trusting that you will be vigilant in complying with these safety practices. Please, do not mingle in indoor spaces like the lobby or elsewhere in the building. If you would like to mingle please do so outside in the open (not in the tents). When mingling outside, it is permissible to remove masks when among those with whom you feel comfortable – but please be mindful of the sensitivities of others and do not presume that others feel the same comfort level that you do.

To reduce superfluous contact and traffic in the building and tents, we will be reducing the number of honors this year.  We will parade the Torahs in the congregation, but ask that you not touch or kiss them.  For the indoor service, we will blow the shofar directed toward the outside through a rear doorway; in the tent we will blow the shofar from the side facing outdoors. 

Just as the Covid situation has changed in the past few months, we understand that your comfort level with attending in-person may have changed too. While we feel that the safety precautions we have in place are what is needed at this time, both for our vaccinated and unvaccinated attendees, we are aware of the risks associated with in-person attendance. If you have changed your mind and your entire pod will not be attending in person, we understand and support whatever decision makes you comfortable. Please let the office know of your change in plans as there are waiting lists for all services.

If you are not feeling well on the day of a service, please do not attend in-person but log into the live stream instead.

As this is an evolving situation we ask for your understanding as we work through these issues. While we believe these will be our final protocols, it is possible that circumstances will necessitate a change.  If so we will update you as soon as possible.

While the focus of this email is safety, we would be remiss if we failed to mention the many people—clergy, professional, office and custodial staff and lay leaders – who have spent countless hours to provide you with the most meaningful, healing and fortifying High Holiday experience possible.  The High Holiday Task Force, under the leadership of Susan Miller and Harold Treiber, our Covid-19 Task Force, and our intrepid clergy and staff are doing everything possible in the changing landscape to help us reach that goal.  We owe them all a debt of gratitude and understanding.

We will keep you posted on any Covid-related developments and with further service and event-specific information and instructions.

In the meantime, we wish you all a happy and healthy Shana Tova. We look forward to davening with you remotely or in-person.

Here’s to a healthy and happy New Year,

Seth Schafler, President

Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz

David Goldstein, Executive Director

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