Re-Opening Task Force

Update

Dear Friends,

 

On July 28, 2021, the Reopening Task Force of Congregation Beth Chaim made the difficult decision to require masks for all in-person indoor events due to the increased Covid-19 transmission rates and the spread of the “Delta” variant. Mercer County has returned to a “high” risk level, and 63% of Mercer County residents have received one-dose of a vaccination (Source: CovidActNow).

 

Our commitment to keeping everyone safe has been an ongoing process and learning experience. Based on the criteria we previously established regarding Covid-19 spread, we would have closed the building to in-person events due to the rising numbers. However, because of the prevalence of vaccinations, we do not have to go all the way back to “Step 1” in our recovery and are taking a smaller step to make sure everyone remains safe while gathering in prayer and learning. We hope to do our part, as part of the larger community, to reverse the current trends. For now, we are returning to universal masking for all indoor events, regardless of vaccination status.

 

We have been talking about the High Holy Days since, honestly, last year’s High Holy Days. We had a great plan, but as has been the case for many months now, plans are made to be modified. As the “Delta” variant increases rates of infection, we have had to recalibrate how High Holy Days will occur. As per the survey from you, a tremendous amount of meaningful online content will be available. In regard to in-person events, this is still being determined as our situation continues to change. We have started to compile a list of vaccinated congregants.

 

For indoor High Holy Day activities, we are requiring all in-person attendees to be vaccinated, in the same way that vaccinations are required to attend other large group gatherings like concerts or sporting events. Upload your vaccination status online at this link or kindly call the Temple Office and we can walk you through that process. We continue to work out the details for in-person events for those who are unable, or are not old enough, to get a vaccine, including the possibility of outdoor services. We look forward to having an update as soon as we are able and will post all new information on the temple website.

 

My continued thanks to Senior Staff, the Reopening Task Force and the Board of Beth Chaim for their support and guidance. Most importantly, my continued gratitude for the patience and understanding of our wonderful Beth Chaim Family as we continue to move through this process together.

 

--Todd Wachtel, Chair of the Reopening Task Force

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