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Young Israel COVID-19 Update -- Restarting In-Person Minyanim

05/28/2020 02:12:10 PM

May28

11 Sivan 5780
June 3, 2020

Dear Friends,

Eleven weeks ago, we made the unprecedented decision to halt all in-person activities and minyanim at our Young Israel. Even at that moment, we understood so little of what these past several weeks would be like. We stand in awe of the incredible outpouring of kindness and support, of the remarkable ways we have found to come together virtually and when physically distanced, and of strength and commitment we have seen from across our community and from each of you!

Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov – with tremendous gratitude to the Almighty, we are grateful to have reached a time when we can begin to incrementally reconvene to daven together, albeit with significant restrictions and guidelines. As we shared earlier, we have been carefully following the first stage of the phased reopening of Connecticut, and we had imposed a 14-day waiting period to ensure its successful and safe progression in line with guidance from the OU and Rabbinical Council of America. With the completion of those 14-days, we are pleased to announce that we will be beginning outdoor minyanim at the Young Israel beginning this Thursday, June 4! Please read carefully this entire email outlining our plans, protocols, and processes – we of course are here if you have any questions or concerns.

Allow us to start by clearly stating a few critical points:

(1) With the daily new cases across our state still in the hundreds, it is critical that we continue to maintain all the essential practices of physically distancing, wearing a mask in settings where that is not possible to maintain proper distancing, and taking all other important precautions to safeguard our collective communal health from COVID-19. Our deliberate and carefully planned resumption of in-person minyanim should NOT diminish in any way the importance of continuing stringently with these practices.

(2) At no point should anyone feel obligated, pressured, or otherwise compelled to join our minyan or any other minyan during this time. We all need to be the best judges of what is right and appropriate for ourselves and our families. These protocols are designed to allow someone to attend our outdoor minyanim, but certainly does not obligate anyone to. As you will see below, we will be continuing to provide virtual ways to stay connected to communal prayer. 

(3) All of these arrangements have been carefully and deliberately conceived of for our particular circumstances following the guidelines given by our local, state and federal governments, the guidance of our umbrella organizations, the OU and Rabbinical Council of America, with halakhic input of our Mara D’Atra Rabbi Brander, and medical consideration of our local professionals including Drs. Carolyn Ganeles, Steven Luger and Tali Porat. Should the current reality shift, God forbid, or these protocols below not be followed, our minyanim will be put on hold again immediately.

(4) We have been spearheading an effort for a community-wide baseline of standards for our Greater Hartford Orthodox community and across the Greater Hartford Jewish community. We fully anticipate and are excited to be co-signers on such a document once it is approved by the other Orthodox synagogues in the area.

That said, we will be moving forward with a plan for outdoor minyanim only at this point. We have chosen this path as outdoor activities are generally considered much safer and allow for appropriate physical distancing. Additionally, based on guidance directly from Dr. Anthony Fauci, we will be starting with a few weekday minyanim and slowly building up to our regular minyan schedule. We will be beginning with Mincha and Maariv on Thursday (6/4), Sunday (6/7), Tuesday (6/9) and Thursday (6/11). Mincha and Maariv will be held before and after Plag haMincha (~6:50 PM) to enable us to daven fully while it is still light out. Shacharit and additionally Mincha and Maariv days plan to be introduced as we move along this process.

Until then, on days where we will not be having a minyan at the shul and for minyanim which we are not yet convening in person, we will be continuing our virtual Zoom davening at their scheduled times. We will also be live-streaming the outdoor minyanim on Zoom for anyone who cannot attend. (Halakhically, whether in person, on Zoom, or alone, it is best to time one’s  davening to coincide with when the tzibbur (community) is davening.)

Minyan will be conducted as follows:

The Minyan Space – The Young Israel Parking Lot (see diagram below)
  1. At this point, all minyanim will be conducted outdoors. In the event of inclement weather, the minyan will be canceled.
  2. Our outdoor minyan space will allow for spacing of 12ft between each participant. (see diagram below)
  3. The outdoor minyan space will be arranged in advance to ensure proper physical distancing – attendees must obey minyan guidelines and remain in their preset spots and sections.
  4. Please park head in only - do not back into your spot.
  5. As you pull into the lot, please fill in each space in order (spot 1 first, then spot 2, etc.).
  6. The two exceptions to the rule above are parking spot 6 and spots reserved for women who sign up. Because of its central location, spot 6 will be reserved for the shliach tzibur. The shliach tziburwill be determined in advance of minyan and should park at that spot irrespective of when he arrives relative to the other participants. 
  7. Each participant will stand at the rear of his/her car. These locations are referred to by the numbers on the map below next to the cars and in the lower part of the diagram. Please remain situated on the number (marked in chalk on the surface of the parking lot) in back of each car throughout davening. Please avoid walking around or pacing from the moment you exit your car until minyan is over. This will ensure that physical distancing guidelines are maintained.
  8. Anyone arriving not by car (ie. by bike or walking), will be directed to a spot by the person in charge of the minyan just like anyone coming by car. 
  9. Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide chairs, siddurim or other items. Every attendee will need to bring their own.
  10. There will be no access to the interior of the building (including bathrooms) before, after or during minyan.  
General Safety
  1. Our minyanim will be limited to 15 people. Priority will be given to members of our Young Israel.
  2. Anyone who wants to join one of our minyanim must sign up online in advance. No one may be allowed to join a minyan if they have not signed up. (Please see below for eligibility)
  3. Participants must wear masks throughout davening, from the moment they exit their cars until they return to their cars to leave the premises. Masks must cover both the mouth and nose.
  4. Minyan will start promptly and end promptly – attendees may not socialize before or after (or during!) minyan. After minyan, everyone must return directly to their cars and depart.
  5. It is imperative that all participants be punctual. There will be no margin for error on anyone arriving late, and minyanim will immediately disband if there is no quorum.
  6. To ensure our communal safety, once communal guidelines are established -- anyone who attends a minyan anywhere must be organized under the auspices and supervision of one of the undersigned synagogues. No private minyanim will be allowed. One who attends such a minyan will be barred from attending minyanim at the Young Israel for safety concerns.
  7. Should one become ill or diagnosed with COVID-19, obviously s/he should cease coming to minyan and must immediately notify Rabbi Brander, Les Loew or Dr. Steven Luger. This information will remain anonymous but will be used to alert other minyan attendees of a potential COVID-19 positive contact. 
 Davening
  1. Davening will be done in a respectful, yet brief way, with an eye to keeping the minyan as short as possible. Unfortunately, at this point, there will be no communal singing.
  2. Additionally, guidelines for each minyan we resume will be shared in advance, detailing what parts should be said at home prior or after the minyan.
 Attendance
● To attend our outdoor minyan, one must:
  1. NOT be symptomatic as described by the CDC. Common symptoms include, but are not limited to: Cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, fever/chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell or feeling unwell.
  2. NOT have had COVID-19 while not yet being cleared by their doctor to leave home.
  3. NOT have a family member at home for whom #1 or #2 is true for. 
  4. NOT be an outside visitor to our community.
  5. Be above bar or bat mitzvah age.
  6. Priority will be given to Young Israel members.
  ● Furthermore, to attend any of our outdoor minyanim:
  1. Anyone attending must sign up online in advance for each minyan they wish to attend. 
  2. Members of the same household must sign up individually in advance as well. 
  3. Anyone attending a minyan must be able and willing to comply with the guidelines enumerated in this document
  4. One must not attend any unauthorized minyan around town or minyan that does not maintain the communal standards which, God willing, will be released in the near future.  
● Individuals considered high-risk due to their medical history or age should consult with their physician as to whether it is prudent for them to attend services.
 
Once you have thoroughly read the protocols above and if you can submit to following them when attending minyan, we invite you to sign up for upcoming minyanim using this link: youngisraelwh.org/minyansignup

We would like to express our gratitude to our entire COVID-19 Taskforce, Dr. Carolyn Ganeles, Dr. Steven Luger, Dr. Tali Porat and Marc Rifkin, for their guidance, insights, and planning. We also appreciate everyone’s understanding and cooperation in this matter as we try to resume a critical function of our shul -- tefillah b’tzibbur(communal prayer) -- and ensure we do so without jeopardizing our collective health or safety and with as minimal and limited risk as possible.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Additionally, we will be making time on our Shabbat On Wednesday program this week to discuss and answer any outstanding questions about these guidelines.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Tuvia Brander
Les Loew, Coordinator
Shayne Green Kesler, Coordinator-Designate
 
 

Minyan Configuration Diagram

Sun, May 16 2021 5 Sivan 5781