Dear Temple Shalom Family,
It has been wonderful to see more of you in-person with an increasing frequency over the past several weeks. We look forward to continuing to gather — indoors, outdoors, and virtually — in the weeks and months ahead.
We are especially grateful for the Burton Hoffman Fund, which enabled us to rent the large tent and provided us the opportunity to celebrate and worship together in person during the High Holy Days. As many of you know, we decided to extend the rental of the large tent and have used it throughout the Fall for Erev Shabbat services, Bat/Bar/Simchat Mitzvah services, religious school and so much more. We hope you will join us for our final Erev Shabbat service under the large tent on December 3, when we celebrate the Night of 1,000 Menorahs. We will then resume regular Erev Shabbat services indoors starting December 10 at 7:30 p.m.
As we make this transition, we all need to be very mindful of the impact of Covid-19 on our continuing operations. This letter provides critical information about our operations going forward. We urge you to carefully review the information in this letter by clicking on the following links.
- Recommendations and Considerations When Deciding About Ongoing Operations
- Close Contacts, Exposure, and Testing Positive for Covid-19
- Vaccine Requirements
- Indoor and Outdoor Programs
- Masking Protocols
- Eating and Drinking
It has been a joy to see our Temple grounds used for learning, singing, dancing, study, and prayer over the past several months. We look forward to many more opportunities to meet, worship, and gather in the weeks and months ahead.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of us.
L’Shalom (In Peace),
Rachel Ackerman, Senior Rabbi
Jeffrey Steger, President
Susan Goutos Zemsky, Executive Director
Josh Gischner, Rabbi-Educator
Karen Miller, Chair, Advisory Task Force on Continuing Operations
Recommendations and Considerations When Deciding About Ongoing Operations
Our Advisory Task Force on Continuing Operations continues to meet and recommend ways for us to gather as safely as possible. In addition to the critically important views of several medical professionals who serve on the Task Force, the Task Force takes into consideration government guidance and up-to-date information when making its recommendations about ongoing activities at the Temple. Recommendations are then considered by the President and Senior Rabbi in conjunction with other Temple leadership. We follow Montgomery County and CDC Guidance in many ways, and in certain instances, we have decided to operate more conservatively than government guidelines. In addition to the Task Force’s input and recommendations, Temple leadership takes into consideration many factors when making decisions about ongoing operations, including:
- The rate of transmission in the County as calculated by the number of cases per 100,000 over the past seven days, and the trend in the rate of transmission.
- The pastoral needs of our community and considerations that allow for the in-person participation for those most vulnerable to contracting Covid-19 and having serious complications.
- The rate of vaccination of members of the congregation and those in our congregation who have not been or are not yet eligible to be fully vaccinated.
- Programming that may bring in people from outside of the DMV who live in places with high rates of infection and transmission.
- The health and safety of the Temple’s staff.
- Guidelines and operations of other congregations in the community.
Close Contacts, Exposures, and Testing Positive for Covid-19
When may I return to the Temple if I tested positive for Covid-19?
Those who have tested positive for Covid-19 may not attend Temple functions for 14 days after the positive test and with improving symptoms OR until they have been released from isolation by a healthcare professional. Participants must promptly notify Susan Zemsky (ten.molahselpmet@yksmezs) if they test positive for Covid-19 within ten days of attending a synagogue program.
What is exposure to Covid-19 and when can I return to Temple following an exposure?
- Exposure is defined by the CDC as: Those who have been a close contact of someone who tested positive for Covid-19 (within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for Covid-19, indoors or outdoors, for a cumulative 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, regardless of mask-wearing).
- For Fully Vaccinated Individuals (2 weeks past your final vaccine dose):
- For Temple Activities held indoors: Participants who are fully vaccinated and have a close contact to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, can return to the Temple after receiving a negative PCR test administered on or after Day 5 of their exposure AND if symptom-free. They must wear a mask for 14 days post-exposure while at Temple, including outdoors.
- For Temple Activities held outdoors: we will follow current Montgomery County guidance, which follows current CDC recommendations. CDC recommendations states in relevant part “Fully vaccinated people who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should be tested 5-7 days following the date of their exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. They should isolate if they test positive…. Most fully vaccinated people with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to quarantine or be restricted from work following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, if they follow the testing and masking recommendation above. Fully vaccinated people should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following an exposure.” For 14 days following exposure, such individuals must wear a mask when attending a Temple Shalom activity outdoors. Such individuals are allowed in the Temple building to use the bathroom. They must wear a mask when in the building. Notwithstanding the above, individuals who live in the same household with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 or is in daily contact with an individual who has tested positive for Covid-19 must continue to follow the Temple’s policy for indoor activities.
- For Unvaccinated/Not Fully Vaccinated Individuals: can return to the Temple 10 days after their last exposure AND if symptom-free without testing OR 7 days after their last exposure if they have had a negative PCR test administered on or after Day 5 of their last exposure AND if symptom-free.
- In all cases, individuals who have been exposed to Covid-19 must wear a mask for 14 days post-exposure while at Temple programming, including outdoors.
- In all cases, If the Health Department requires a longer period of quarantine than this allowance, the individual may not return to Temple until the Health Department releases the individual from quarantine.
I am not feeling great – it is probably just a cold. Can I come to Temple?
Participants will stay home from the Temple if they experience Covid-19 symptoms within 24 hours prior to a program unless they have a negative PCR or rapid antigen test taken while symptomatic. Please note that the Delta Variant includes the following symptoms: symptoms of the common cold, shortness of breath, fever, chills, loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Participants must promptly notify Susan Zemsky (ten.molahselpmet@yksmezs) if they test positive for Covid-19 within ten days of attending a synagogue program. In general, do not come to Temple events with a fever or if you have been instructed to stay home because of contagion by a doctor.
Is vaccination required to attend events at Temple?
We are thrilled that the vaccine is now available for everyone ages 5 and older and boosters are available for anyone ages 18 and older. Covid-19 vaccines are currently required for participation at events and programs at Temple for anyone ages 12+ (within 8 weeks of your 12th birthday). Full vaccination means two weeks after your last required shot. Beginning Tuesday, January 4, 2022, Covid-19 vaccines will be required for participation at events and programs at Temple for anyone ages 5+ (within 8 weeks of your 5th birthday). Children aged 5-11 should get their first shot before November 30 to meet this requirement to participate in synagogue programs beginning on January 4.
Are vaccine boosters required?
We are not requiring vaccine boosters to participate in Temple programs, but we do encourage everyone 18 years and older to consider getting a booster as soon as possible.
What if I cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons?
If you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, you must contact Susan Zemsky (ten.molahselpmet@yksmezs) and you must be able to provide a medical exemption note from a recognized doctor.
Is proof of vaccination required at Temple?
We do not require proof of vaccination for members or guests (except in very limited instances). We trust our members and we trust that in filling out our registration forms individuals are truthfully acknowledging their vaccination status. We reserve the ability to ask for verification of vaccination from guests attending b’not/b’nai/simchat mitzvah services given a number of individuals travel from outside of the DMV to attend these life-cycle events.
Indoor and Outdoor Programs
Can meetings and programs be held indoors at Temple?
Yes, meetings and programs have been and can continue to be held indoors. Please check with those attending your meeting to make sure that you can accommodate the needs of most of those you are meeting with. This may mean having hybrid/multi-access opportunities with both in-person and Zoom options. To schedule a program indoors, please contact Susan Zemsky (ten.molahselpmet@yksmezs).
It is getting chilly! When are services going to be indoors?
Except in cases of extreme weather, Erev Shabbat services will be held outdoors through Night of 1,000 Menorahs on December 3. Bundle up! Bring hand warmers, foot warmers, layers, and blankets! Erev Shabbat services will move indoors starting December 10 at 7:30 p.m.
It is getting chilly! When is religious school moving indoors?
Except in cases of extreme weather, religious school will remain outdoors until early January 2022. Bundle up! Bring hand warmers, foot warmers, layers, and blankets!
What about Shabbat Morning Worship and Torah Study?
Shabbat Morning Worship and Torah Study (SMWTS) may take place indoors with a Zoom option, outdoors with a Zoom option, or over Zoom entirely, as determined by each individual leader for that service. It will be noted in the weekly email. After December 4, SMWTS will move indoors.
Is masking required at Temple events that are outdoors?
Masking is always welcome at outdoor events. Mask requirements are based on the county health department’s rate of transmission. When Montgomery County has a “High” rate (more than 100 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days), masking is required outdoors. When the Montgomery County rate of transmission is substantial (50-100 cases per 100,000), masking is encouraged. Masking is welcome, but not required at moderate and low rates of transmission. Please note below regarding masking outdoors for religious school.
Is masking required at Temple events that are indoors?
At this time, masking is required at all indoor programs at Temple. Montgomery County currently has a mask mandate for all individuals over the age of two years old when indoors at any location accessible to the public. The Temple’s Advisory Task Force on Continuing Operations will reevaluate our masking guidelines when the number of Covid-19 cases in Montgomery County have several weeks of a downward trend well below the moderate threshold. Our current indoor mask requirement is consistent with many local congregations who responded to a survey about masking and food.
Is masking required outdoors during religious school?
Masking outdoors in Religious School should follow the guidelines outlined in this document provided by the Religious School. Students can temporarily remove their masks for distanced mask breaks, to drink water/hot drinks, and for snacks.
Food and Drink
Are food and drink permitted at Temple events that are outdoors?
Are food and drink permitted at Temple events that are indoors?
At this time, food and drink are not permitted at Temple programs that are held indoors. This is consistent with many local congregations who responded to a survey about masking and food. Food and drink may be consumed outdoors during indoor events.