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Bais Abe Reopening Plans

June 12, 2020

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to share the news that, with G-d's help, we are making preparations to move into the first phase of reopening the shul this coming week.  We are working on getting everything set up to be able to resume in-person weekday morning davening outdoors on the back patio of the shul this coming Wednesday June 17, G-d willing. Services will be held at their usual times of 8:30am Sunday, 6:30am Monday through Friday.  During these services, which restricted to a limited number of pre-registered attendees, we will follow strict social-distancing guidelines designed to minimize the risks of transmission. These guidelines are described after this letter beginning on Page 2.

As a community that values the participation of every person and seeks to remove barriers to access, we have tried to craft these guidelines in a way that is as inclusive as possible while also protecting life and health of our community.  We are painfully aware that even without categorically forbidding people from attending on the basis of age or other risk factors, the choice to hold in person services right now will inevitably exclude a significant number of individuals from attending.  We recognize that this is a temporary compromise of our shul's core value of inclusivity, in the face of the strong desire for those who are able to, to be able to gather in person, and the need to protect life, until such a time when circumstances make it safer for all members of our community to gather.  For those who would like to daven along with us from home, we will be broadcasting this service on the Bais Abe Facebook page. We also encourage those who are not able to participate in our in-person services for any reason to take advantage of the many other ways of connecting with the Bais Abe community—Zoom classes, services and social events, Bais Abe Connect (or community listserve), and more, including our daily Mishnah chaburah which will continue to take place at 7:30am on Tuesday-Friday.

During this first phase of reopening, the only in-person activity which is resuming is our weekday morning davening.  All other weekday classes, meetings, and other activities, including Kabbalat Shabbat services and the daily Tehillim and Mishnah learning, will continue to take place online for the time being.  Any further steps towards reopening will depend on how this initial phase of reopening goes, as well as how the situation in the larger community develops. In formulating these plans we have been guided by the expertise of our resident Infectious Disease experts, as well as guidelines from the Orthodox Union, and state and local laws.  Throughout our reopening process we will be guided by the advice of experts and adhere to all relevant state and local laws.

I would be remiss if I did not express my gratitude to Hashem for helping us reach this point.  I also need to thank everyone who has been working hard on plans for reopening—Kalanit Chappell, Larry Friedman, Drs. Morey and Tessa Gardner, Dr. Michael Gutwein, Ruth Schachter-Cohen, Stewart Shilcrat, and Dr. Greg Storch.  I would also like to thank everyone who has stepped up to help our shul community not only survive but thrive during this pandemic. 

I am tremendously excited to be able to once again daven together with our community.  This is of value first of all to enable communal Torah reading, and to enable those who are in mourning to say kaddish, as well as to enable us to say those pieces of liturgy which require a minyan.  However, there is a value of davening together in a group even when we are not able to make a minyan.  Our prayers lend strength to one another, and there is a great psychological and spiritual benefit simply to gathering together with others, especially right now.  It is quite possible that during this first phase of reopening, we will initially have trouble making a minyan, as some of our regulars continue to avoid public gatherings.  For those who are able to and comfortable attending, I encourage you to attend whether or not we get a minyan.  

I cannot tell you how much I am personally looking forward to davening together in a group again. I pray that all of us are able to find and hold onto a newfound appreciation for communal prayer and for all the other small joys that we might have taken for granted before COVID-19.  May this be just the first in a series of successful steps towards normalcy.

Blessings,

Rabbi Garth Silberstein

 

Protocols for Weekday Mornings Services

With the caveat that as the pandemic develops, things could change quickly, the following rules and procedures will govern weekday morning davening during this first phase of reopening:

Overview

  • Services will be held outside.
  • Attendance will be limited to 14 people who have preregistered.
  • Everyone must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth and maintain social distancing of 8 feet from non-household members at all times while on the Bais Abe premises.
  • If you are ill or have been exposed to COVID-19, please stay home until you are sure you are not contagious.

How Services will be conducted

  • A maximum of 14 people (including men and women) will be allowed.
  • There will be a mechitza and space to accommodate both men and women at services.
  • We are working on arranging for a canopy shelter to be installed.  Until this happens, services will be canceled in case of rain or other inclement weather.
  • Anyone leading services, speaking or reading Torah will wear a face shield in addition to their face mask.
  • The person who is going to read from the Torah will be responsible for setting up the Torah and rolling it prior to services, as well as taking out, putting away, lifting and wrapping the Torah. In order to allow the same person to lift and wrap, they will set the Torah down on the shulchan after lifting it, and wrap it on the table.
  • The Gabbai Rishon and Gabbai Sheni will stand 8 feet away from the Torah reader.
  • Those receiving aliyot to the Torah will stand at their seat and make the blessing from there.

Who Should Attend?

  • Only those who register in advance may attend services. Use this form to register. 
  • Except under special circumstances as assessed by the Rabbi, attendance will be limited to members of the Bais Abe community.
  • Anyone who answers “yes” to any of the screening questions listed at the end of this document will not be allowed to attend services.
  • Anyone, including children, who is unwilling or unable to remain in or at their seat throughout the duration of services may not attend services
  • Anyone, including children, who is unwilling or unable to adhere to all the protocols and guidelines detailed below may not attend services.
  • Those who are considered vulnerable for more severe COVID-19 because of underlying medical conditions and/or because they are over 65 years of age are discouraged from attending.  Others may choose not to attend because of concern for vulnerable household members. Even those who are not at elevated risk are under no obligation at this time to attend communal davening. If you are unable to attend in person services at this time for any reason, please take advantage of Zoom and other opportunities for connecting with Bais Abe. See the Bais Abe website for a list of on-line offerings.

Entering and Leaving the Davening Space

  • Before entering, each attendee will have to pass health screening questions and pass a temperature check with a touchless thermometer.
  • While waiting in the front yard to to approach the back yard gate for screening, attendees should maintain 8 feet distance from each other (unless in the same household), and wait to approach the gate one at a time until the person just screened has entered the back yard and found their seat.
  • Upon entering the Bais Abe yard, each attendee will sanitize their hands (hand sanitizer will be provided).
  • Upon entering the back yard, people should go to their assigned seat right away and not walk around.

 

Social Distancing During Services

  • Everyone must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth at all times while on the Bais Abe premises. Those whose beards prevent a proper fit of the mask should also wear a face shield.
  • During services, people will sit in designated seats only.  Chairs will be placed a minimum of 8 feet apart from one another, and may not be moved.  A second chair, clearly marked, will be provided to put belongings down on during services.  These second chairs are not to be used for sitting. Those in the same household will be assigned adjacent seats so that there will be household clusters on the appropriate side of the mehitza. 
  • Stay in or at your chair throughout the service.
  • Each person must bring their own siddur, tallis and tefillin.  No public siddurim will be available. If you do not own a siddur, tallis or tefillin, and you would like to borrow one from the shul to use throughout the pandemic, please contact rabbi@baisabe.com.
  • Maintain an 8 foot distance from others at all times during services.  Do not approach or attempt to shake hands with anyone, or talk with anyone outside of your household at less than an 8 foot distance.
  • Be sure to maintain the minimum 8 foot distance from others when entering or leaving the back yard. The only exception should be interacting with the screener when entering the back yard.
  • The shul building will be closed during services.
  • Everyone should use the restroom at home, prior to coming to shul, to avoid needing to use the restroom at shul if at all possible.
  • The restrooms at Bais Abe will only be available for emergency use.
    • Those with an urgent need must speak to the screener and follow the Emergency restroom use protocols below.
  • At this time, an individual who has recovered from COVID-19 or who has a positive antibody test must continue to observe all precautions described in this document.

 

Screening Questions

Each attendee will be asked the following screening questions before being allowed to attend services.  Please do not register to attend unless you can answer “no” to all of the following question:

  • Have you had a diagnosis of or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
  • Have you been exposed to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
  • Have you had any of the following symptoms in the past 14 days (not due to a chronic preexisting condition)?
    • Fever(100.4 F or higher), chills or shaking
    • Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • headache
    • sore throat
    • muscle aches
    • diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain
    • runny nose
    • new loss of sense of taste or smell (for adults)
    • “COVID toe” (red or purple toe swelling)
  • Have you traveled from out of town within the last 14 days? 

 

Emergency Restroom Use at Bais Abe during COVID-19

  • If you have an urgent need to use the rest room while at Bais Abe, speak to the screener about letting you into the building.
  • No more than one person at a time will be allowed into the building to use the restroom.
  • The person using the restroom must adhere to the following protocols:
      • Leave exhaust fan on.
      • Close toilet lid (when available) before flushing,
      • Then wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, dry with paper towel and use paper towel to turn off faucets.
      • While wearing gloves, wipe down all surfaces you have touched after use (door handles, door plates, countertops, and sink faucets, flush handles and seat, etc) with a disinfectant cleanser that will be provided after using the restroom along with disposable gloves and an instruction sheet.
      • After wiping down the surfaces and before exiting the restroom, discard your gloves in the trash bin and wash your hands again with soap and water for 20 second, using a paper towel when touching the sink faucet handles.
      • To exit restroom, use a paper towel to open the door and discard the paper towel in the waste bin next to the door.

 

 

 

 

See below for a recording of the Bais Abe Covid-19 Update and Town Hall held on Sunday, May 31, 2020 with infectious disease specialists Drs. Morey Gardner, Tessa Gardner, Michael Gutwein, and Greg Storch, as well as with Rabbi Garth Silberstein.

 

Moreover, the following documents were circulated to participants before the program and are included here as well: 

  • Guidance from the Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America - here
  • Guidance from Agudath Israel of America - here 

Fri, July 10 2020 18 Tammuz 5780