Re-Opening Task Force

Update

The Reopening Task Force recently sent you a survey regarding reopening, and we thank you for your response. We are so happy to announce that on April 21, 2021, the Reopening Task Force of Beth Chaim unanimously agreed to expand our limited in-person activities to include Shabbat Services and Torah study, beginning April 30, 2021.

 

We have already had some wonderful in-person services with B’nei Mitzvah families, and we are so proud to announce that we are expanding our in-person services to maximum of 50-people per activity. Preference will be given to those with life-cycle events that week to come into the building, as we are sure that you will understand.

 

The Task Force and the Senior Staff developed a comprehensive policy for determining whether in-person events should be permitted. Each week, we evaluated numerous factors including guidance from the State of New Jersey, the CDC, and a review of various data points. This policy has been a wonderful step in determining whether in-person religious education and other events can be held in the building. We will continue to utilize this process to determine how we will expand into in-person services and study, and to help us determine if we need to slow things down.

 

All of our services and indoor classes will continue online. We have heard from so many congregants who have created new traditions in their homes and are enjoying joining us virtually. We will continue to provide this option.

 

As we did when the weather was warmer last year, we will be having out-door services. As a reminder, we ask that you wear your favorite mask while on our campus, bring your own chair, observe the seating areas, and remain physically distant.

 

To be clear, we are not “out of the woods” yet with Covid-19. We remain a “masked campus.” The in-person activities that we are having will not look or feel like they did in the past. Everyone will be asked to remain physically distant. We cannot yet permit singing by congregants. We know that the virus is an airborne disease, and that singing helps its spread. While we would love to hear your voice, it is not yet time. We ask that you sing in your heart but not aloud. Further, there will be no Oneg Shabbat, or other indoor communal eating. These rules are meant to keep our community safe.

 

The Reopening Task Force will continue to be guided by Jewish values, the scientific community, and local/national authorities. As we have seen in recent months, the Covid-19 situation is rapidly evolving. As such, our procedures are all subject to change. Changing government guidelines and regulations, new outbreaks, or other circumstances beyond our control, may result in an update to our procedures. Nonetheless, it is our sincerest hope that we can expand our indoor capabilities even more by the High Holy Days and new school year.

 

This has not been an easy time for anyone, and we appreciate your patience. As always, please feel free to share your questions and concerns by emailing me at reopen@bethchaim.org or by contacting any other member of the Board. 

 

See you soon - either online or in person.

 

Thank you,

Todd Wachtel

The Board of the Directors of Congregation Beth Chaim, the “Reopening Beth Chaim” Task Force, as well as Task Forces that have been discussing reopening the Beth Chaim Pre-School and Religious School have all been hard at work, formulating a plan for Beth Chaim in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Our groups made these decisions seriously and were guided by State and Federal law. We were also guided by pikuach nefesh, the principle in Jewish law that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule. As such, on June 23, 2020, the Board of Directors, in consultation with Clergy, Education, and Temple Administration, after significant discussion and review of current State and Federal law, voted in favor of the following roadmap to reopening Beth Chaim:

 

Phase I

  • July 6, 2020 – Senior staff return – Consistent with the policies set forth by the State of New Jersey, the Senior Staff will be return to the building. Since the building will still be closed to Congregants, to maintain the health and safety of our staff and our congregants, please call or email to connect with our staff members.
     

  • July 13, 2020 – Pre-School reopening – Congregation Beth Chaim is honored to be the only Jewish Pre-School in Mercer County. We have tremendous Pre-School parents, who let us teach their cute children. We have spent a considerable amount of time working on a comprehensive plan that would allow small ‘pod’ groups of ten-students maximum to return to the building so parents can return to work. Our Education team has developed a great program that complies with the State, Centers for Disease Control, and Union of Reform Judaism procedures. We will be inspected by the State of New Jersey weekly, and look forward to exceeding the State’s expectations.
     

  • Aug 21, 2020 – Outdoor Friday Night Services – “Shabbat Under the Stars” returns in the middle of Summer 2020. Of course, we will continue “online” access, as well. More  details will be provided in the upcoming weeks and hope to share with you a meaningful experience that will keep everyone safe.
     

  • High Holy Days Online – The High Holy Days are a time of repentance and renewal. While we would love to pray under the same roof together, we simply cannot do that safely and equitably. During this crisis, Shabbat, B’nei Mitzvah, and all aspects of Temple life have been conducted online. Accordingly, High Holy Days for 2020 will be online. We have been blessed with the technology that will keep us together. Our decision is consistent with the recommendations of the Union of Reform Judaism, and other Reform Congregations in our area. Our Clergy is already hard at work to create a familiar program rooted in our tradition. At the end of the Yom Kippur service, it is a tradition to say, “Next Year in Jerusalem” This year, we add to our prayers “Next Year in West Windsor.”

 

Phase II (The dates of the following phases will be released as we move through the process, consistent with State and Federal guidelines).
 

  • Outdoor Shiva Minyanim

  • Outdoor Social Programing

  • Outdoor educational opportunities and small Religious school groups meeting outdoors

  • Larger Pre-school reopening

 

Phase III

  • Hybrid online and small in-person indoor services

  • Hybrid online and small in-person committee meetings

  • Hybrid online and small in-person education

Phase IV

  • Beth Chaim enters a “new normal.” All of our programming will likely have an online component, as we move into a new era of connection.

  • In-person larger indoor services

  • In-person larger meetings

  • In-person larger education

Congregation Beth Chaim is special. The heart of the Congregation is its people, not its physical location. As we have proven during this crisis, there is so much to our village - even if we cannot be together on Village Road East. We look at this roadmap as not just an opportunity to endure this pandemic, but as a unique time to create positive change for Beth Chaim that will serve us well into the future. We hope that we continue on our current positive road to recovery and pray that these plans do not take any steps backward. We have already learned how little is in our control.

 

Many people have been involved with these decisions. As we discuss this roadmap as a Congregation, I look forward to hearing from you, too.

 

Your voice is encouraged and valued. Board members will be contacting you in the future, and more details will be provided. Join us for Zoom Town Halls:

July 16, 2020 at 12:30 pm, and 7:30 pm

If you have even the slightest question or concern, please feel free to contact me at reopen@bethchaim.org.

Todd Wachtel

Reopening Task Force Chair