An update on our Covid-19 Planning

Dear congregants, On February 9th we held our CBJ 90th Anniversary Gala, and the 300+ congregants that gathered at CBJ to celebrate that evening could […]

Dear congregants,

On February 9th we held our CBJ 90th Anniversary Gala, and the 300+ congregants that gathered at CBJ to celebrate that evening could not have begun to imagine what was in store for us, our families and our world just a few weeks later.

As the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic became clear, our board, staff and clergy acted very quickly—putting our first set of shutdown measures in place several weeks ahead of the orders from the authorities—our guiding principle then, as it is now, was to protect the vulnerable, and also protect our staff and clergy.

We are all reeling from the impact of Covid-19 and how we have had to modify our behaviors to stay safe. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that the most difficult aspect of this has been the physical isolation which has impacted much of the weekly rhythm that we came to rely on. For many of us, the drumbeat of that rhythm has been shabbat services.  The ability to interact online with CBJ has been for us—a godsend—(and the pun is intended).

The clergy and staff immediately started to develop an alternative set of online activities, and our services did not miss a beat in terms of our transition to online. Likewise, our religious school and preschool immediately started to develop an online curriculum, not an easy thing to do given the age groups we are engaged with.

We have been blessed to bring together family members and friends from around the globe for services, lifecycle events, shiva minyans, learning and creating virtual community.  The outpouring of participation has been amazing. In July we celebrated our first wedding ceremony in the beautiful new patio—with family and friends zooming in from the U.S. and Israel, as well as many other countries. We can’t wait for you to see in person the beautiful space that has been created through your generosity.

And so too for education—we have worked hard over the summer to maintain contact with our preschoolers and religious schoolers.

As I have previously mentioned, in May we created a Covid-19 task force to guide us all in the best practices for the Shul. The three area of focus have been synagogue services, religious school operations and preschool operations.

The findings of the task force were discussed and debated at length during three extraordinary board meetings held in July and August and I want to share that status with you.

Synagogue Services

As mentioned above, using a hybrid in person/zoom model, we have started to offer on-site single-family cohort lifecycle events, which have allowed extended families to get together to celebrate, or to mourn.  We are discussing preliminary plans to hold limited Friday evening and Saturday morning outdoor services after the high holidays, and these plans are all contingent on the rapidly changing local pandemic status at that time. Our priority must continue to be to protect the health of the congregation staff, and the clergy.

Religious School – In the Garden

Plans are in place to be able to offer a choice of on-line or in person religious school curricula for the 2020-21 academic year—these plans have been considerably facilitated by the decision to hold RS in outdoor classrooms, for as long as possible before the weather become inclement. RS operations will be conducted around the recommended protection protocols, including organizing the classes into isolated cohorts. We believe that our approach will help protect students and teachers alike and allow our kids to continue to develop their religious education and of course, their menschkeit.

Preschool

Preschool will be open for the 2020-2021 year—again in outdoor classrooms, and  will follow many of the same protocols as religious school—clearly an online only curriculum for preschool would be very limited, and the tradeoff for our preschool is continuing to allow for the social development of the students while keeping students and staff safe.

I want to take the opportunity of wishing all of you “L’Shana Tovah”, and while we will not have the opportunity to greet each other in person, our online High Holiday program will offer a rich set of services and opportunities for learning—and we hope to be able to reach out to many of you and chat via zoom.

And finally, I would like to thank the many congregants who have participated in the huge planning effort that this pandemic has necessitated and once again answered the call with “Hineni!”

If any of you have any questions or comments related to our pandemic actions please contact me at steven.dines@gmail.com