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Important High Holy Days Update

Dear Temple Shalom Family,

As we approached our High Holy Day planning, we took to heart how important it is to bring our congregation together for in-person worship after an incredibly difficult 18 months. The improved conditions over the summer allowed us to experience the joy of in-person services and activities as we reconnected with each other. Our connections with one another define our community, give us strength, and sustain us through challenging times. It is of the utmost importance to our Temple Shalom leadership that we sustain our congregation’s ability to continue to gather together in person.

Our Professional and Lay Leadership together with our Advisory Task Force on Continuing Operations have been closely monitoring Covid-19 in our local community as well as the significant impact of the delta variant. Montgomery County currently has a Substantial rate of transmission as measured by the number of confirmed cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days.  The dramatic shift from Moderate to Substantial rate of transmission, combined with pikuach nefesh, the Jewish call to protect life above all else, obligates us to make a difficult decision for our holiday observances. After giving careful thought to these and other considerations, last night the Board of Trustees endorsed the decision to hold all of our High Holy Day services outdoors. Considering the increased risks associated with gathering a large group indoors, we want to reduce the chances of spreading the virus which could, among other things, cause the cancelation of subsequent in-person holiday and b’not/b’nai/simchat mitzvah services. By shifting all services outdoors, we can offer robust, spiritual, and meaningful in-person worship and programming while reducing concern about the spread of the virus.

One of the greatest disappointments to some of our members is not having the opportunity to pray in the Sanctuary and before our Torahs in the ark. Therefore, during our outdoor High Holy Day services, we will offer carefully curated opportunities for a small number of masked, vaccinated individuals to spend a few moments in the Sanctuary while listening to the service as it is happening outdoors. We fully acknowledge this will not replace the experience of praying in the Sanctuary, but we believe it will offer powerful moments of connection and meaning in that sacred space.

This decision was made with heavy hearts as we know how important it is to be able to return to worship in our Sanctuary. We want to be together – and we will be together. Doing so outdoors for the High Holy Days best enables us to continue to join together throughout 5782.

L’Shanah Tovah u’Metukah (To a Good and Sweet Year), 

Rachel Ackerman, Senior Rabbi
Jeffrey Steger, President
Susan Goutos Zemsky, Executive Director
Peter Howard, Executive Vice President
Karen Miller, Vice President

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