Synagogues face tough COVID questions (again) as Omicron surges

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(JTA) — Nearly two years ago, when the pandemic hit the United States, synagogues were lauded for rapidly moving their entire slate of programming and worship online, and for finding ways to connect with congregants in a world where few were leaving their homes and many were dying.

Since then, congregations’ plans have yo-yoed along with case rates, vaccinations and variants. Nationally speaking, Orthodox synagogues, whose rabbis and members don’t use electronics on Shabbat, have largely continued meeting in person throughout the punishing Delta and Omicron waves. But Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform synagogues, which mostly do use electricity and tend to take a more flexible approach to Jewish law, have continually had to decide whether to hold services in their sanctuaries, on Zoom or somewhere else.

With vaccinations available to everyone 5 and older, many synagogues had finally gone back to meeting in person. But Omicron’s record numbers have raised the same set of questions about safety, social distancing and the complications of virtual worship yet again.

What Some Local synagogues Are Doing

Temple Israel

Currently, TI is doing in-person and virtual Shabbat services on Friday nights.

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The temple is not hosting Pre-Onegs at this time, but all Shabbat guests will receive a complimentary “To-GoNeg” with a treat.

For the time being, reservations are required to attend Shabbat services in person CLICK HERE for more information on in-person services and to reserve your seats.

TI invites everyone to join them for weekly Shabbat services virtually on their website and Facebook page.

Saturday Morning Shabbat Services are online only. When Saturday morning Bar/Bat Mitzvah services are scheduled, everyone in the TI community is welcome to attend virtually. 

View this month’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah Saturday morning services here. 

Traditional Congregation

Friday night, since the pandemic, Traditional does a virtual Shabbat, called Kabbalat Shabbat, which takes place prior to the beginning of Shabbat.

Traditional does do in-person services on Saturday mornings for Shabbat.

United Hebrew Congregation

At least through January, all of United Hebrew’s services and Torah studies are virtual only. Toward the end of the month, the synagogue will re-evaluate.

Congregation Shaare Emeth

Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the area and in an abundance of caution, Congregation Shaare Emeth has decided that the upcoming three Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat services will be offered virtually only.

There will be no in-person option this Friday, January 14, or on January 21 or 28.

Everyone is encouraged to join us via live-stream for this week’s unique, thought-provoking service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tu B’Shevat.

Bais Abraham

On their website, Bais Abraham informs that all services and programs are held either outside under tents or inside the shul building. Under the guidance of Bais Abraham’s Infectious Disease specialists, Bais Abraham made upgrades to their ventilation and filtration systems to make sure the physical space is safe to use. See a schedule of services here. See here for Bais Abraham Congregation’s Covid-19 Policy and here for a letter from Rabbi Silberstein.

B’nai Amoona

In an online message to congregants, Anita Kraus, the Interim Director of Operations and Director of Early Childhood Education announced that B’nai Amoona was virtual this week.

The following Services and programs will be available on Facebook Live, Kosher Zoom and on the BA Livestream page ONLY:

–Friday Evening Services
–Shabbat Shirah/Shabbat Morning Services
–Torah for Today – Study Session
–Saturday Afternoon/Evening Services

Tu B’Shevat Nature & Niggun events will take place in person outside with masks required.

Morning Minyan and Evening Minyan will continue to be offered in-person and virtually, but no food will be served.