The Nitty-Gritty of the Decision Making Process Around Reopening
1) COVID issues - Regardless of vaccination levels in the community, we cannot expect all members of TBB to be vaccinated by the High Holidays. It is simply impossible for some age groups and health conditions. There are also new variants appearing, and increasing travel over the summer makes the fall too unpredictable. We needed to develop a plan we could stick with since we cannot make changes to our services at the last minute that will satisfy our needs. Because most high holiday activities require singing together and being in a building without sophisticated ventilation, we cannot fill the building on the high holidays even with low community rates. We feel it is not in keeping with the spirit of TBB to be determining subgroups of congregants and families who are able to attend specific portions of the services.
2) Fair access - Zoom-type services have been a benefit to those members of our congregation who had difficulty joining in-person services for a variety of health reasons (such as hearing impairment, or mobility challenges). Providing improved access to all members of our community is part of our mission, and we need to develop a multi-access model for the future.
3) Safety - Well before COVID began, we were planning for safety concerns around Jewish ritual, and sadly these concerns have not abated. We will continue to need to control access to the building, while also focusing on keeping the spiritual aspect paramount. Having the shul at full capacity is just not viable this year.
4) Regarding other congregations - TBB is an urban synagogue with an old building, limited parking, and no ventilation system. We do not have outdoor space, tents or function halls. Our decisions are based on those issues, and may well be different from other congregations.