The past month or so has seen some Denver-area synagogues slowly reopening for limited daily and Shabbat services. The services don’t look like they did before the COVID-19 shutdown, but they do allow a limited number of worshippers the opportunity to pray communally.
Now is the time for Hebrew Educational Alliance, BMH-BJ and Aish of the Rockies.
HEA resumed in-person Shabbat morning services on Saturday, June 27.
The service was limited to 25 participants, selected by a lottery. Those observing a yahrzeit do not need to enter the lottery, but need to sign up in advance.
Those whose names were not drawn in the lottery last week are being given preference for this Shabbat’s service, July 4.
Masks are required in the building at all times.
The six-foot social distancing rule applies in all cases, including entering and existing the building.
All entrants are health-screened.
Seats in the sanctuary are assigned. Only two people are allowed in the restrooms at one time.
The leaders, honors and aliyot are strategically choreographed to keep people distant from one another.
Kiddush is not being served.
“These first weeks of reopening are a series of experiments that are reviewed and tweaked by the reopening committee. The variances in the virus create constant reassessing and refiguring,” said HEA CEO Laura Intfen.
BMH-BJ will resume on-site Shabbat morning services, Saturday, July 4, following strict social distancing protocols.
In a letter to the congregation, Rabbi Yaakov Chaitovsky, Cantor Martin Goldstein, President Jeff Kline and Executive Director Ilene Rosen outlined these protocols:
There will be two services on Shabbat morning. The Shaarei Simcha mechitzah minyan will meet 9-10:30 a.m. in the sukkah with up to 25 participants. The sanctuary service will meet 10:15-11:45 a.m., with up to 50 participants. Only the north lot sanctuary entrance will be open.
Participants must sign up online for the services, or call the synagogue office for assistance. Worshippers are instructed to arrive on time and stay for the entire 90-minute service.
“We will be using a contactless thermometer to take your temperature readings. A reading of 99.8 or higher will bar you from joining that day,” the letter said.
Worshippers must bring their own kippot and tallesim, and everyone must wear a mask that covers the mouth and nose. Seats will be set six feet from each other, and may not be moved.
People who are exhibiting any symptoms associated with COVID-19, or are not feeling well in any way are requested to stay home that day. People above age 65 should consult with their doctor before signing up.
BMH-BJ’s services will be streamlined and softer in volume than usual, with limited congregational singing. The Shabbat morning service will begin with Shochen Ad; earlier prayers should be said at home.
The Torah will be carried by the reader only, and no one else will be at the reading table except the Torah reader. Persons who have aliyot will make the blessings from their seats. The Haftorah will be chanted softly and quickly.
The services will include brief sermons. The Musaf Amidah will be done congregationally through Kedusha, then silently.
There will be no children’s programs or kiddush.
The letter said protocols will be modified as necessary in line with local, state and medical guidelines.
Beth Evergreen is holding an in-person Kabbalat Shabbat service, following COVID-19 guidelines, Friday, July 3. The service will also be streamed.
Aish of the Rockies has been slowly reopening since May 21.
“It’s a time of incredible joy, and at the same time of fear and trepidation,” said Rabbi Yaakov Meyer. “The health and safety of community remains our highest priority, and we continue to monitor the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic. We do not take it lightly.”
Aish of the Rockies has adopted precautionary practices and protocols, from masks and hand sanitizer to continual sanitizing of surfaces.. Furnishings have been removed and rearranged, signage has been posted, and many activities are still on pause.
Entry and egress are through different doors.
Prayer times are staggered, and daveners bring their own prayerbooks and religious accoutrements to assigned seats, where they remain without pacing. No one may kiss the mezuzzahs or touch the Torah as it is taken out of the ark.
Because the building remains closed to the public, only members and regulars are invited to be among the limited numbers of participants. Organizers have resorted to a lottery system when signups exceed slots.
As for the weekly sermon? “Happy days are here again,” Rabbi Meyer quipped. “No sermons from the rabbi. Knowing that, we may get 500 people to sign up or a Shabbos morning service. But we’ll only take 12 [during phase one].”
Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News