Friday, May 28, 2021 | 17 Sivan 5781

At our Town Hall in early May, we shared the plans for returning to Beth Emet in person. We also launched a short survey to gain an understanding of your preferences and thoughts about returning. We received a great response from 43% of our congregation, representing 260 member households. Here are important takeaways that we’re using to inform our decisions and next steps  

  • 99% of the survey respondents reported being fully vaccinated, and expected to vaccinate their children age 12+ as soon as they are able to.
  • Current thinking about attending in-person Shabbat services in the Sanctuary this summer: 69% of people preferred services where being fully vaccinated is required for attendance. Only 22% would feel comfortable attending services where vaccination is not a requirement, and an additional 21% are unsure about attending a service in person at this time.
  • Current thinking about High Holy Days: 74% of respondents would prefer services where being fully vaccinated is a requirement. Just 5% would attend services where vaccination is NOT required, and 18% are unsure about attending in person. 
  • Overall the sentiment of the survey responses was a mixture of excitement and eagerness to return in person, combined with understandable hesitance, and interest in the details.

So what does this mean?   

  • Shabbat Services: We are continuing on the path of beginning Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat services on alternating weeks, live from the Sanctuary this summer! We will start with small numbers of fully vaccinated congregants, and reservations will be strictly enforced to ensure capacity limits. We will follow health protocols that reflect CDC, state, local, and URJ guidance. We will continue to livestream all worship services on Zoom and Facebook. We’ll be communicating more when details are available in June.

  • High Holy Days:  We will offer options for the High Holy Days: the Traditional services will likely require members to be fully vaccinated, and the Chavurah services will be designed for those households where not everyone is fully vaccinated (historically families with children). The CDC and State of Illinois guidance is changing rapidly, and we aren't able to determine yet how many people can worship together or the specific health protocols, such as masking, distancing, or communal singing. And, we will livestream all of the services. You can expect more information in July.

  • Health Protocols: We are continually evaluating the new guidance from CDC and the changing rules in the State of Illinois, Judaism places primary importance on the value of Pikuach Nefesh - saving life. As such, all of our protocols are based on the value of protecting the safety of everyone who comes to Beth Emet. Preparation is underway to ensure that members are comfortable and confident in our health and safety protocols when they return in person. We will be creating a brit, or covenant, for our congregants which will explain our shared responsibilities for a safe and comfortable return in person.  

We have received many excellent questions about our health and safety protocols (such as masking, distance requirements, capacity, singing) which are shown below, and will also be on our website. If you have additional comments or questions, please click here.

And of course, as conditions may change we will remain flexible and appreciate your patience as we enter this new phase. Check out for more information.

Karen Isaacson
President, Beth Emet Board of Trustees
Frequently Asked Questions - as of May 21, 2021


Q: Is the Beth Emet staff vaccinated?
A: Yes. All Beth Emet clergy and staff are fully vaccinated and supportive of our plans. 

Q: Are vaccinations required to come back to Beth Emet in person?
A: Yes. As we return in person, in order to gain experience with the safety protocols, we will begin to welcome you back this summer with smaller numbers of fully vaccinated people. 99% of our congregants who responded to our survey reported being fully vaccinated. Please note that we are having programs outside for younger families and children where vaccination is not required.

Q: How will I be reassured that others attending in person are fully vaccinated?
A: Congregants who wish to attend in-person worship services (and eventually other opportunities to be in-person) will be asked to acknowledge a brit, or covenant, which describes expectations about safety protocols, including vaccinations.

Shabbat Services

Q: Will I still be able to worship remotely, from home?
A: Yes. One positive benefit during the pandemic was the incredible connection we have maintained, and in many ways, grown via remote services. This will not change in the future, and in fact, we’re enhancing our technology to ensure that our members will have a wonderful experience... whether you are online or attending in-person.

Q: I understand reservations will be required to attend Shabbat services in the Sanctuary this summer. How will that work?
A: We will be sending out information inviting our members to sign up to attend Shabbat services in the Sanctuary over the summer. If you are interested and fully vaccinated, you will select preferred dates, and we will then confirm which dates we have reserved for you. Given the capacity limits and our priority around health and safety, we can not accommodate those who come without a confirmed reservation.

Q: Will we have outdoor Shabbat services this summer?
A: At this time, we are not planning outdoor Shabbat services, as it is difficult to accommodate more complex logistics and a concurrent livestream in an outside setting. 

Q: When will Kahal Shabbat services return in-person?
A: We are working towards having Kahal return in-person later this summer.

Health and Safety Protocols

Q: What specific health-related protocols will be in place?
A: We will continue to require masks at all times while inside Beth Emet. We have improved the airflow and filters to meet or exceed the guidelines for air exchanges. We will set chairs to comply with the recommended distancing, and capacity. There will be hand sanitizer stations available throughout the building. Advanced cleaning regularly occurs. You will receive instructions on entry and relevant safety protocol a few days in advance of services where you have a reservation. The CDC, state and local guidance continues to evolve, and we will adapt these protocols accordingly. 

Q: How will the logistics work … how will I enter, what do I do? 
A: We will be providing comprehensive instructions in advance - via email, and posted on the Beth Emet website, as well as detailed information that will walk you through what to expect. There will also be signage in the building and volunteers to guide you. As so many within our congregation have not yet experienced our new and secure west entrance, instructions will also include how to enter the building safely.

Q: What if I'm not comfortable coming into the Sanctuary?
A: That is totally understandable. We will continue to livestream all worship services on Zoom and Facebook so you can continue to have a meaningful worship experience. The links for services will continue to be posted on our online calendar. 

Q: Are we re-opening too quickly… or too slowly? 
A: We are focused on striking the right balance, and have listened to feedback from our congregation. We are committed to the health and safety of our community. We have consulted with infectious disease experts and others who are closely monitoring the recommendations from the CDC, State of Illinois, City of Evanston, and the URJ in order to safely provide access to worship in-person at Beth Emet. We are starting slowly during the summer -- “walking before we are running” -- to ensure the health and safety of our congregation. Of course, if the situation changes, we will adapt our plans.

Q: Will I be able to invite my friends and family members to attend services in the Sanctuary who aren’t members of Beth Emet?
A: Not at this time. We will limit in-person Shabbat worship to vaccinated members of the congregation.

Q: How are we handling singing during services? 
A: We are awaiting updated guidance, including from the American Conference of Cantors, and are hopeful that Cantor Cotler will be able to sing in the Sanctuary soon! We are closely monitoring guidance related to congregants’ communal singing and honors, as well.  

High Holy Days  

Q: How will the High Holy Days worship work this year?
A: We will offer multiple services for the High Holy Days, and are actively working through the details. Some services will require members to be fully vaccinated, and others will be designed for those who have not been vaccinated. All services will be livestreamed and recorded - watch for more information in July! We will also continue a new tradition of hearing the shofar at designated locations throughout the area as well as tashlich by Lake Michigan and a few other select locations.  
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