Dear Friends,
Rabbi Hiyya the Great and Rabbi Shimon ben Halafta were walking in the Arbel Valley at daybreak as they saw the first rays of dawn. Said Rabbi Hiyya: This is how redemption comes. First little by little, then growing ever stronger, as it is said [Micah 7.8]: “When I sit in darkness, God is my light.”
- Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 1.1 (2c)
The pandemic is not over, but light is beginning to crest the horizon.

It has been a year since our last unrestricted services at Ansche Chesed, on Purim, March 9-10, 2020. Since then, we’ve limited in-person davvening to outdoor gatherings, bnei mitzvah families or small groups ensuring the presence of a physical minyan during the high holidays. The rest of our worship has been through screens.

With vaccination rates increasing, it is time to begin a cautious, measured return to public prayer in our house of prayer.

Following the guidance of our local medical and safety experts -- including AC members who are specialists in epidemiology and infectious diseases -- and after considered deliberation by our officers and board of trustees, we are delighted to start davvening in person, in small groups, masked and distanced in our sanctuary.

Welcome back.

These services will continue to be accessible by Zoom, on the same links we’ve been using until now.

Please know that the initial steps we describe here are provisional. We will augment our successes and course-correct in response to new challenges. If mutating viruses reduce vaccine efficacy, we’ll peel back. If vaccines continue to work, we’ll ramp up from the small groups we're inviting now until we can accommodate the whole community.

In the immediate run, we invite any and every community member to sign up for upcoming services, beginning on the first day of Passover, as detailed below.  Spaces are limited for now. Please be patient if you cannot attend as often as you would like. Ansche Chesed members - from any constituent sector of our kehillah -- will take precedence as we distribute places. If space permits, we will try to find places for non-members as well.

Please use this GOOGLE FORM to indicate whether you are vaccinated and which dates you would prefer to attend. Because we are keeping track of each attendee’s vaccination status, we will distribute places by individual, not by household groupings. So please submit one form for each person who would like to attend.

A note on kids: We are eager to welcome children to the services, but please submit forms for children only if they are capable of sitting through a full service or can remain on laps or in strollers. Also as the weather warms, beginning the day before Pesach, we are adding outdoor childrens’ services. Please see the bottom of this email, where you can get all the details and register.

Here are the safety conditions for our first bloc of in-person services:
  • Up to 30 fully vaccinated people can attend each service. (“Fully vaccinated” means two weeks after the 2nd dose of the Pfizer or Moderna, or 28 days after the single-dose Johnson and Johnson.)
  • Up to 5 not-yet-fully vaccinated people can attend each time.
  • All attendees must register in advance. Please do not come if you have not been assigned a spot, confirmed by the AC office. 
  • Please do not attend if you are feeling sick, if anyone in your household has been diagnosed with Covid19, or if you’ve had a high-risk exposure in the last 10 days.
  • Attendees must remain masked and distanced throughout the services.
  • The sanctuary windows will be open to increase air exchange. Bring coats if it is cold.
  • Communal singing should remain soft.

The dates for the first bloc of 9:45am morning services will be:
Sunday, March 28 Pesach-1 
Monday, March 29 Pesach-2
Shabbat, April 3, Pesach-7
Sunday, April 4, Pesach-8 (including Yizkor)
Shabbat, May 1
Shabbat, May 15
Monday, May 17, Shavuot-1
Tuesday, May 18, Shavuot-2 (including Yizkor)
**Note that this list omits many Shabbat mornings in April and May. Those dates are scheduled for Bnei Mitzvah. We will permit those simcha families to fill the limited spots with their guests, as well as to protect their relatives and determine whether they feel comfortable with outside davveners joining them.
In addition, we invite you to register for 6:30pm Kabbalat Shabbat services on these dates, under the same conditions:
April 9
April 23
May 7
May 28
Weekday Morning Minyan will also begin a parallel pilot program for opening, beginning with the regular davveners in that group. (Those services will also remain accessible on Zoom.) Please watch for further information or contact Rabbi Kalmanofsky if you would like to register for a weekday morning davvening.

AC's constituent Minyanim will also have opportunities to begin meeting in person over the course of the spring, under the same conditions described here. Construction has begun on our building, newly restricting some spaces. We look forward to working with the minyanim, enabling us all to meet as easily as we can.

Outdoor Kids Services in Riverside Park
Saturday, March 27th, 10:00 - Mishpacha Service (families with babies, toddlers and preschoolers) with Leilah Rosen - RSVP for Mishpacha HERE!

Sunday, March 28th, 10:00 - Yigdal Service (families with kids ages 5-8) with Emily Cobert - RSVP for Yigdal HERE!

Saturday, April 3rd, 10:00 - Big Kids Service (kids ages 8-12) with Tommy Treitel - RSVP for Big Kids HERE!

The best way to get to the spot in the park is to enter on 100th and Riverside Dr. and walk north towards the path to the Hudson River. You will see us on the right! Please bring blankets to sit on; wear masks and practice social distancing. RSVP's requested, walk-ins welcome.

At its best, real worship is panim el panim, "face to face." For the time being, our faces will still be behind masks as we davven. But we are thrilled that the time has come to take these steps forward.


Rabbi Yael Hammerman
Hazzan Natasha Hirschhorn
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky