Dear Shir Chadash Community,
Louisiana is in the worst surge of the COVID-19 pandemic so far in terms of case growth rate, percent positivity and hospitalizations. There are three primary actions we can take to minimize our risk of infection: masking, distancing, and vaccinating. Last Thursday, August 5th, we sent an update regarding masking and distancing. Now, we turn our focus to vaccinating. On Monday night, the Health Committee recommended instituting a vaccination requirement for in-person attendance, and the synagogue Board unanimously approved the following motion:
Shir Chadash requires that everyone who comes inside the building be fully vaccinated (if eligible). Proof of vaccination will be required and may be provided in advance. Masks must be worn in the building at all times. The Health Committee will reassess the need for these requirements as health conditions warrant.
The decision to establish a vaccination requirement was not one that either the Health Committee or the Board took lightly. Rather, it was done out of an abundance of concern for the health and safety of our congregants and staff, which has been of utmost importance since the outset of the pandemic in March 2020. The Board also took into account recent rulings by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and the following halakhic points:
- Jewish law requires that Jews take appropriate measures to preserve their own life and health and that of everyone else in the human community. In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, this means that in public, Jews are halakhically required to wear appropriate face covering, physically distance, wash hands, obey maximum occupancy and attendance restrictions, and follow all other public health measures recommended by public health authorities.
- In making decisions for Jewish institutions, for services and other gatherings, congregational and communal leadership must set policies consistent with the recommendations of public health authorities, even when the restrictions they recommend are not legally mandated and even when religious institutions are exempted on grounds of religious liberty from state and local mandates.
* Source: “Wearing Face Covering, Physical Distancing, and Other Measures to Control the COVID-19 Pandemic” by Rabbis Elliot Dorff and Susan Grossman
Taking preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks, frequently washing hands, and physically distancing, are mitzvot and mandated by halakhah.
- Jewish law obligates Jews to vaccinate themselves and others in their care, with medical guidance, with vaccines that have a proven and safe track record.
COVID-19 vaccines approved by government health agencies under emergency processes are considered to be refuot b’dukot, established treatments. With proper medical guidance, Jews are obligated to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
* Source: “Vaccination and Ethical Questions Posed by COVID-19 Vaccines" by Rabbi Micah Peltz
You can find our current re-opening guidelines HERE. We will provide another update soon with the logistics of how we plan to implement the vaccination requirement. Your cooperation and understanding are appreciated as we navigate this challenging time. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.
Julie Finger, MD
Chair, Health Committee