Yesterday afternoon I participated in a Zoom meeting for Conservative rabbis to discuss how we as rabbis and as congregations deal with questions that arise as conditions continue to improve and more of our constituents are fully vaccinated. The Conservative movement is diverse and there are different approaches to some of the halachic questions concerning making a minyan over Zoom, the use of various technologies on Shabbat, and changes made to shorten and streamline services. However, at least some of these permissions were intended as procedures for sha’at ha-d’chak, a temporary crisis. At the same time, as the pandemic wanes it is clear that at least some of these changes, even if intended as temporary, are going to be with us for a long time if not permanently. We discovered, for example, that we have members who rarely if ever attend services and classes, not because of a lack of interest, but because their health doesn’t allow it -- but when online options became available, they began to participate. I believe that some element of streaming, and Zoom or hybrid classes and meetings, are here to stay. This is not something that affects only synagogues -- many sectors of our economy and our national life are grappling with the desire of white collar workers to continue to work from home, with the realization that it doesn’t make sense to travel from New York to San Francisco or London for a 30 minute meeting with a client, that board members don’t want to travel several hours for a 90 minute board meeting, and so on.
A number of good ideas emerged in our discussion. One is the use of the term “phase''. We are at phase one of our plan to return to our building. The decisions we have made, the procedures that we are following, are for now. What we do tomorrow might not be what we do a few weeks from now; in fact, it is likely that things will change as we continue to move forward.
The second idea is to avoid the term “reopening” and use a different term instead -- I personally like the word “return.” We are not “reopening” because we have been open throughout the pandemic even if not meeting in our building. We are “returning” to our sanctuary but . . .
We are doing so in a “multi-access” (rather than “hybrid”) format. Our services can be accessed either in person or online and we are doing the best we can to make the experience equal and as good as possible for both access points. As a reminder, if you are planning to come in person tomorrow morning please fill out this form by this afternoon.
A couple of other notes:
We continue to watch and pray that the 99 residents who are still unaccounted for, of the condo in Surfside, Florida, which collapsed yesterday morning, will be found safe. Colleagues in south Florida report that the suffering is great and there are tremendous needs for emergency housing, food, clothes, and everything else that has been either lost or rendered inaccessible by the tragedy. If you would like to contribute to relief efforts please go to this link.