May 26,2020/3 Sivan 5780
We hope this letter finds you well as we prepare for the Yom Tov of Shavuos. The Pandemic has taken its toll in many ways, but one burden felt by all is the long separation from our beloved Shul. With the new guidelines issued by the Governor and the County allowing for public worship, the natural inclination is to resume davening services immediately. This is only intensified with Yom Tov coming.
In anticipation of this development, there has been much discourse the past few weeks both on the national and local levels as to how to proceed. It is important to state that every organization and individual is of the best intentions. We all want to get back to Minyan safely and quickly. There have been guidelines issued which share common, best practices such as social distancing, facemasks etc. At the same time, there have been differences found in the suggested guidelines.
SZ will follow the OU guidelines which recommend waiting 14 days for any communal prayer – whether indoors or outdoors – from the date the local government allows for reopening. The wisdom behind the rationale is as follows:
The risk the virus poses R”L is always present, especially in a Minyan setting. As society relaxes the strictures of the lockdown, there is the unfortunate potential for an uptick in cases and community spread. Being that symptoms may not appear until two weeks after exposure, the first meaningful assessment cannot be made until 14 days elapse. Rather than G-d forbid, becoming part of the increase in cases, it is prudent both from a medical as well as Halachic perspective to be patient and evaluate the local conditions two weeks henceforth. If the numbers continue to remain stable or even better, trend downward, then we can feel that much safer in choosing to reopen.
The added benefit in waiting is that it allows for better preparation. We are appointing a special committee to consider the many details that need to be addressed for our safe return to Shul. To name a few – adequate spacing for venues on the Shul site (as of now we do not intend to begin with indoor services), staggered Minyanim times, registration, and lavatory use. A key consideration is having an efficient plan of action if it is discovered that someone in attendance became ill and possibly infected others, ch’v.
We realize that this decision precludes the possibility of davening with any Minyan over Yom Tov. However, to paraphrase the Gemara as to why we desecrate even Shabbos to save a life – it is better to forfeit one Shabbos to gain a lifetime of future Shabbos observance. Likewise, it is better to spend one more Yom Tov in private to allow for many safer and healthier Yomim Tovim celebrated together.
Wishing everyone a safe and joyous Shavuos,
Ben Andron, President SZ
Rabbi Jonathan Rosenberg