Please watch your email inbox throughout this week for updates on our plans to begin hybrid Shabbat morning services. We are hoping to have our first such service this coming Shabbat morning but there is a lot to be done between now and then to make this happen.
As I wrote to you on Monday morning, we now have sufficient wi-fi in the Sanctuary to support hybrid or “multi-access” services. On Monday afternoon I spent some time in the Sanctuary with our House chair Tom Loggie, Technology Committee chair Charlotte Strauss, and Treasurer Terry Strauss figuring out what equipment we need and where it should be placed in order to allow those in the Sanctuary to see those on Zoom and vice versa. By repurposing some equipment we already own as well as obtaining a few new items, we came up with a very modest budget that we hope will be sufficient to accomplish the task. Through the miracle of next day delivery that additional equipment was received yesterday, and this afternoon Tom and I will install and test it to make sure that we can really conduct a hybrid service this coming Shabbat morning. Tomorrow night our Ritual Committee will meet to finalize procedures for the conduct of the service to make sure that everyone who attends in person can feel comfortable with our COVID precautions and that whether you are a “Roomer” or a “Zoomer”, you can have full access to the service. Our proposed protocols have been drawn up with the participation of physicians who have the requisite expertise as well as knowledge of our congregation, and they exceed CDC guidelines to make things as low-risk as possible.
Assuming that we are able to move ahead with our first hybrid service this Shabbat, we will ask you to sign up in advance if you want to attend in person. This will enable us to know how many people to expect and also allow us to be certain that everyone attending understands and agrees to follow the COVID precautions we will have in place. Once it is clear that we are able to move forward, you will receive an email with a link to a signup sheet and the COVID protocols.
I recognize that in some ways it would simply be easier to say that we’ll wait another week (which we will certainly do if we have to) but it’s important that we get things up and running. It’s almost inevitable that some things will go wrong and even if they don’t, we will constantly be reevaluating what we do based on what works or doesn’t. I ask both for your patience and your feedback. You may not realize it but the first night of Rosh Hashanah is on Labor Day this year, and the more hybrid services we have before then the better off we will be.
In March 2020 when we started having services and other activities on Zoom rather than in person, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) gave guidance which was intended to be temporary for the duration of the COVID shutdown. As we came to see, the shutdown lasted far longer than anyone anticipated. We also learned that coming out of the shutdown is not like flipping an on/off switch but is a complicated and gradual transition. This coming Monday the CJLS is having a discussion on how we determine that the pandemic is over and which modifications should be continued indefinitely and which rolled back. This is a timely discussion as we figure out our way forward. Because I’ll be participating in this discussion, there will not be a Virtual Lunch this coming Monday.
I’m grateful to so many people who have worked very hard to allow us to continue as a community during this very difficult period. As we enter another period of transition, I look forward to being with you whether in person or on Zoom.
As always, if you need to talk or I can do anything for you, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office as I continue to work mostly from home, although having been vaccinated I am available for in-person meetings in my synagogue office by request.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian