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Rabbi's Update 4/28/2021

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

As of Monday evening, May 3, we will be saying Mincha (the afternoon service) as well as Ma’ariv (the evening service) at daily minyan. This means that meetings and classes scheduled for right after minyan will begin at around 8:15 rather than 8 pm. We are starting this on Monday May 3 as there is no Kehilat Shalom minyan Sunday evening, May 2, so that everyone may participate in the JTS Day of Learning.

I am occasionally asked how we determine when we will start saying both Mincha and Ma'ariv at evening minyan and when we then go back to only saying Ma'ariv. The time of MIncha is determined by the time of sunset. Mincha must be finished by sunset and since it takes us around 15 minutes, and our evening minyan is always at 7:45, we start saying Mincha the week that Shabbat candle lighting time is 7:45 or later and we stop saying it when Shabbat candle lighting time is once again earlier than 7:45.

Over the last few days I have been in touch with many of the families in our congregation with kids in public schools to find out how the transition to in-person school is going for them. Schools are now back in a hybrid fashion, with roughly half of each class able to attend in-person every other week. But because the other half of the class is still distance learning, students are often still doing their classes on Zoom while sitting in their classroom as opposed to sitting at home. Parents also have the ability for their children to opt out of in person learning altogether and continue to learn entirely remotely. What’s interesting to me is that in some of our families, parents have made different choices for different children, with one of their students going back into their school building while others continue to remain entirely online. When a family makes this kind of decision, it emphasizes what we already know: each person is different and what works for one person will not necessarily be the best option for another person.

As we discuss precisely when and how we will resume holding services in our building, it’s important to remember that the best option for one person is not necessarily the best option for someone else. For quite some time we will have to take into account that some people are simply not ready to return to in-person services yet. Others may be willing and able to do so but nevertheless prefer to be unmasked at home rather than masked and socially-distanced in the shul. For quite some time, our services will have to be hybrid, which means equal participation by those in the building and those at home. We are in the process of obtaining and installing the necessary equipment to do just that. While it’s easy to make it possible for those at home to see and hear those in the shul, it’s a bit more complicated to make sure those in the shul can see and hear those at home.

What I think we really want is to go back to our pre-pandemic lives. I am eager to get back into the building at least for some services but I wonder how comfortable I will be davening and teaching wearing a mask -- and how well those in our community whose comprehension of a speaker depends as much on their ability to see the speaker’s mouth as to hear their voice will be able to follow what I am saying.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself saying more than once in different contexts that life would be easy if every choice we had to make was between a good option and a bad option. But very often our choice comes down to a bad option and a worse option, and it’s not always obvious which choice is the least bad.

While almost half of those who responded to our recent survey left comments, if you have any thoughts you’d like to share with me as we figure this out, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

As always, if you need to talk or I can do anything for you, please contact me via email at or via phone at 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office as at the moment I continue to work mostly from home, although having been vaccinated I am available for in-person meetings in my synagogue office by request.

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