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Keeping Our Synagogue Healthy
While Planning for Reopening

Dear Fellow Congregants,

We all want to get back into the synagogue. When is it safe to do so, and how should we do that safely? The short answer, as explained in more detail below, is that our Reopening Task Force feels it’s prudent to continue taking a cautious, “watchful waiting” approach, keeping uppermost the health and safety of our congregants and staff.
On May 18, we wrote that we had received an initial set of recommendations from the Health Committee regarding a gradual reopening of the synagogue. We formed a Reopening Task Force comprised of our Health Committee and Executive Committee. Based on the Health Committee’s recommendations, our professional staff immediately started detailed planning to develop health and safety, physical workplace and security protocols in accordance with the state’s reopening proclamation and government guidelines. We continuously monitor information from the CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health. 

This past Monday evening, June 8, in a follow-up report to the synagogue’s Board, the Health Committee confirmed their earlier recommendations. The Executive Committee and Board had a comprehensive discussion of the synagogue’s reopening plans that was spirited, constructive and productive. The upshot is that while we are planning for reopening, more time is needed to carefully and thoughtfully determine how and when to reopen. More to follow.

Risk Mitigation
For the past few weeks, we have focused on cleaning and maintenance of the synagogue building and purchasing supplies (masks, hand soap, etc.), configuring seating arrangements in the sanctuary for social and physical distancing, reviewing and reinstating security procedures, demographic considerations for synagogue attendance, a reservation process for in-person services, contact tracing practices, and signage, among other things. Some of this will translate into a specific set of mitigation standards and guidelines for the community, which we will ask you to observe to ensure the health, safety and well-being of congregants and staff.

Ritual Observance
Using recent guidance from the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Rabbi Silver and the Ritual Committee have begun to examine ritual options for Shabbat morning services and the High Holidays. We will need to adapt our services and we must expect a different experience of community informed by the mitzvah of taking care of each other.

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Conservative/Masorti movement of Judaism adopted a teshuvah permitting the limited use of technology on Shabbat and festivals, particularly during the Jewish High Holidays this fall. The goal of the teshuvah is to enable forms of remote participation in services consistent with bringing communities together in prayer while adhering to Jewish law around Shabbat observance. Rabbi Silver and the Ritual Committee will help guide the synagogue Board on our options for the use of technology.

High Holiday Task Force
We have formed a High Holiday Task Force to develop ways to reimagine this year’s High Holiday experience for Shir Chadash. They are planning to have an initial meeting soon.

The Coming Weeks
We hope you will understand and support our preparations over the coming weeks for a gradual reopening of the synagogue and phased resumption of in-person religious services.

We will continue to provide you with regular, ongoing updates as more information becomes available and decisions are made. In the interim, please take advantage of the array of meaningful and engaging services and programming virtually.

The Health Committee has recommended that it is safe for our synagogue staff to return to work onsite. Please reach out to them with any questions you have or for assistance you might need.  

While navigating these challenging times together, let’s keep reaching out to each other, checking on each other and helping each other through this unprecedented experience.

Be well and stay safe. Shabbat Shalom.

Ken Klein

Rabbi Deborah Silver

Ricardo Totah
Executive Director