As you may recall, a number of years ago the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of Conservative Judaism (CJLS or the Law Committee) ruled that all Jews can eat kitniyot, things like beans,rice, corn, and peanuts, which Ashkenazi Jews have traditionally avoided during Pesach even though they are not chametz.
At the time, I reminded our congregants that just because it is now permitted to eat kitniyot does not mean that it is required to eat kitniyot. Not to do everything that the law allows you to do is not a violation of the law. Furthermore, because we have congregants who continue to observe the custom of not eating kitniyot, we do not serve them during Pesach so that everyone can feel comfortable eating in our shul during the holiday.
I think of this analogy in regards to the question of masks and other precautions that people take during this pandemic. It appears very likely that Montgomery County’s indoor mask mandate will be lifted tomorrow morning. Assuming that today’s metrics do not indicate a sudden and unanticipated spike in COVID-19 transmission, the seven day threshold of “moderate transmission” will have been met and the mandate then lifts automatically.
Even if the mask mandate is lifted, our mask requirement in shul will continue until at least November 13. This coming Shabbat morning our service is Zoom-only so the question of masks is irrelevant. The following Shabbat, November 6, Jacob Sheib, son of Amy and Michael Sheib, will be called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah. Jacob and his family will be joined by many of his classmates from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS). Because CESJDS has its own mask mandate which is stricter than County regulations, masks will be required for all in attendance on November 6 even if the County mask mandate has been lifted by then. Please make a note of this and prepare accordingly. (Please also note that for those who plan to attend via Zoom, a different Zoom link will be used that morning which will be published in next week’s announcements and updates.)
There was other good news in the quest to bring our society back to some semblance of normal life yesterday. An FDA advisory panel approved the Pfizer vaccine in a smaller dose for children aged 5 through 11. There are a couple of more steps in the approval process but it seems likely that vaccines will be available for these children as early as next week. This is good news for our religious school. Since half of our students are below age 12 and thus unvaccinated, we have chosen to continue conducting our school entirely online for now. I’m hoping that within a matter of weeks all our students will be fully vaccinated and we can feel safer holding some sessions in our building. (It should be noted that even before the pandemic, all midweek Hebrew classes and half of our Sunday classes were being held online so the transition to a fully-online school was relatively simple.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian