Important COVID Protocols Update

September 2, 2022 in News and Updates

The COVID Task Force continues to meet as needed and reviews local rates of infection, hospitalization, and community spread, as well as changes to both CDC recommended protocols and local guidelines.

As we look toward celebrating the High Holidays and the return of children to both BEPS and BERS classrooms, the following policies apply:

Masks are optional at all services and activities taking place at Beth El with the exception of when on the bimah. In consideration of varying levels of comfort among those attending services, masks continue to be required on the bimah when in close proximity with others. Clergy, b-mitzvah, and Haftarah readers may remove masks when speaking from the bimah and not in close proximity to others.

Mask requirements at events taking place in private congregant homes are at the host’s discretion. 

Vaccination requirements remain in place for all vaccine eligible people. Full COVID-19 vaccination is required for all vaccine eligible people at all activities taking place at and sponsored by Congregation Beth El (including private homes). This includes all b-mitzvah guests. Children between ages 6 months and 5 newly eligible for vaccination must be fully vaccinated (all doses in the protocol + 2 weeks) no later than December 15, 2022. Booster shots are highly encouraged.

Beth El Religious School and Preschool continue to provide updated information and policies specific to classrooms and programs to enrolled families.

 


 

Previous updates…

March 14, 2o22

With COVID cases continuing to trend downward in Montgomery County, updated guidance from the CDC, and local municipalities removing their mask mandates, Beth El is also moving toward a mask-optional policy.

The following changes are effective Monday, March 14:

Masks will be optional at all Beth El services and activities taking place at Beth El. Mask requirements at events taking place in private congregant homes will be at the host’s discretion. We continue to encourage masking considering the diversity and varying levels of comfort within our community and continued transmission of COVID-19. Clergy, office staff, and security will continue to wear masks in the building while interacting with congregants.

In consideration of varying levels of comfort among those attending services, masks will be required on the bimah when in close proximity with others. Clergy, b-mitzvah, and Haftarah readers may remove masks when speaking from the bimah and not in close proximity to others. The music stand for aliyot will continue to be available.

Vaccination requirements remain in place for all vaccine eligible people. Full COVID-19 vaccination is required for all vaccine eligible people (anyone age 5 and older) at all activities taking place at and sponsored by Congregation Beth El (including private homes). This includes all b-mitzvah guests. As children turn 5, Beth El requires full vaccination within 2 months of their birthday. Booster shots are highly encouraged.

All attendees, including those under age 5, are welcome at all indoor food service, including kiddush luncheons. Outdoor seating will continue to be available, weather permitting.

Beth El Religious School and Preschool will provide updated information and policies specific to classrooms and programs to enrolled families following the Montgomery County Board of Education meeting on March 8 and any updated guidance from CDC on K-12 and early childhood education settings, which is expected in the coming weeks.

The COVID Task Force is continuing to meet and will pay close attention to local rates of infection, hospitalization, and community spread, as well as changes to both CDC recommended protocols and local guidelines. We will continue to adjust our approach considering all these factors, as well as our community’s varied needs.

We are proud of the Beth El community for its support of one another throughout the past two years. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, we are excited to build on the innovative approaches we’ve adopted while also returning to familiar traditions in person. We look forward to continued outdoor programs, use of technology to expand gatherings, and celebrating Shabbat, holidays, and s’machot together.

L’Shalom,

Rabbi Greg Harris
Rabbi Deborah Megdal
Hazzan Asa Fradkin
Henry Feller, Executive Director
Jill Rider, President


 

February 18, 2022

Maryland, Montgomery County, and other local municipalities, as well as communities around the country begin to ease COVID restrictions. Beth El also continues evaluating our protocols. As we have throughout the pandemic, we are making decisions that are guided by science and mitigate risk for our congregants while also balancing the importance of gathering together in person as a community. We anticipate a festive, fun 80s/90s Broadway-style Purim celebration and a kids Purim celebration as well.

Considering the desire to both ease restrictions where scientifically appropriate and provide as safe a worship and gathering environment as possible for our most at-risk members, the COVID Task Force has made the following adjustments to our protocols:

Masks will continue to be required for all in-person services, programs, classes and events taking place at Beth El. Clergy, b’nai mitzvah, and Haftarah readers may remove masks when speaking from the bimah and not in close proximity to others. Everyone  in the building must wear a hospital-grade mask, or N95, KN95, or KF94 mask. Cloth masks will not be permitted with the exception of BEPS students and those under age 5 unable to find appropriately fitting upgraded masks.

Indoor food service, including kiddush luncheons and BERS Upper School dinners, will resume on Tuesday, February 22. Fully vaccinated attendees may remove masks when actively eating. Outdoor seating will continue to be available, weather permitting, for families with children under age 5 and the general congregation if desired.

Vaccination requirements remain in place for all vaccine eligible people. Full COVID-19 vaccination is required for all vaccine eligible people (anyone age 5 and older) at all activities taking place at and sponsored by Congregation Beth El (including private homes). As children turn 5, Beth El requires full vaccination within 2 months of their birthday. Booster shots are highly encouraged.

Sanctuary seating will return to full availability on Saturday, February 19. Alternate rows will no longer be blocked off.

Policies and protocols will continue to be evaluated regularly. The COVID Task Force is paying close attention to not only Maryland and Montgomery County decisions regarding masking and vaccination, but also rates of infection, hospitalization, and community spread. Beth El’s protocols will continue to consider all these factors, as well as our community’s varied preferences and needs.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Henry Feller.


January 7, 2022

Beth El remains committed to mitigating risk for our community. Considering the continued and significant impact of the Omicron variant, we have made some further, temporary adjustments to our worship, study, and programming as follows:

Upgraded masks will be required for all in-person services, programs, classes and events taking place at Beth El. All those in the building must wear a hospital-grade mask, N95, KN95, or KF94 mask. Cloth masks will not be permitted with the exception of BEPS students and those under age 5 unable to find appropriately fitting upgraded masks. Upgraded masks can be purchased at a number of locations, including Project N95.

Masks will be required at all times on the bimah including for clergy, lay leaders, Torah or Haftarah readers, and those honored with aliyot.

All indoor food service, including kiddush luncheons, will be paused through the end of January. This decision will be continuously re-evaluated as metrics improve and does not impact BEPS programming where students are distanced and closely monitored.

Religious School will remain fully virtual throughout the month of January. The hope is to resume in-person learning on Tuesday, February 1. Updates will be provided to enrolled families directly from BERS.

Vaccination requirements remain in place and booster shots (now approved for everyone 12 years of age and over) are strongly encouraged. COVID-19 vaccination is required for all vaccine eligible people at all activities taking place at and sponsored by Congregation Beth El (including private homes). All children currently ages 5 – 11 must be fully vaccinated by January 31, 2022 to continue to participate in in-person Beth El activities. As children turn 5, Beth El requires full vaccination within 2 months of their birthday.

Beth El’s quarantine policy for all in-building staff is informed by CDC, state, and Montgomery County Guidelines. The latest CDC guidelines can be found here. Should a staff member test positive for COVID, Beth El requires they stay home for 10 days following the onset of symptoms or date of diagnosis if they were asymptomatic, be symptomatically much improved, and fever-free for at least 24 hours without use of acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Alternatively they may return to the building following 7 days after the onset of symptoms (or date of diagnosis) if they subsequently test negative on day 5 or later following the onset of symptoms or date of diagnosis if they were asymptomatic.

Virtual programming and spaces continue to be available. For those who are unvaccinated, feel more comfortable, or need to worship from home, Beth El will continue to offer online program options, including livestreams of Shabbat morning services, online learning opportunities, and other dedicated virtual experiences.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Henry Feller. Our continued thanks to the members of the COVID Task Force for their time, dedication, and thoughtful consideration.

 


Previous updates…

December 24, 2021

Congregants,

Beth El remains committed to the health and safety of our congregation as well as ensuring we all continue to feel connected to our shul and our community. As we close out 2021 facing the Omicron variant and associated surge in Covid cases, we again find ourselves adjusting to an evolving situation.

However we come together – in person or virtually, Beth El is a strong, vibrant community. With flexibility and commitment to protecting one another, we have found creative, inspiring ways to celebrate simchas, learn and pray together, and continue to grow in our individual and collective spirituality.

Considering the increasing rate of Covid cases in our area, we have made some moderate adjustments to our worship, study, and programming as follows:

Social Distancing will be temporarily reinstated in the sanctuary and chapel with designated alternate row seating. Please leave space between your family or group and another. The Covid Task Force will re-evaluate this requirement in early January.

Additional spacing will be added between tables for kiddush luncheons at least through January 15. Outdoor, heated seating also continues to be open and to-go containers are available for anyone wishing to take their lunch home to eat.

Religious School and Preschool will both be fully virtual for the first week of January. The plan is to reopen for in-person learning on January 10. Updates will be provided to enrolled families directly from BERS and BEPS.

The Annual Gala will now be an exciting virtual event — a circus from your home! Additional information for already registered attendees and those who wish to participate in Beth El’s biggest annual community event will be forthcoming from the Gala committee.

Vaccination and masking requirements remain in place. COVID-19 vaccination is required for all vaccine-eligible people at all activities taking place at and sponsored by Congregation Beth El (including private homes). All children currently ages 5 – 11 must be fully vaccinated by January 31, 2022 to continue to participate in in-person Beth El activities.

Virtual programming and spaces continue to be available. For those who are unvaccinated, feel more comfortable, or need to worship from home, Beth El will continue to offer online program options, including livestreams of Shabbat morning services, online learning opportunities, and other dedicated virtual experiences.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Henry Feller. Our continued thanks to the members of the COVID Task Force for their time, dedication, and thoughtful consideration.

B’Shalom,

Rabbi Greg Harris
Rabbi Deborah Megdal
Hazzan Asa Fradkin
Henry Feller, Executive Director
Jill Rider, President

 


 

November 11, 2021

Congregants,

As always, Beth El continues to be guided by our sacred obligation to keep our community safe. With vaccines newly approved for younger children and changes to Montgomery County’s mask mandate, please take a moment to read this important update to Beth El’s COVID protocols.

Vaccine Requirements: It has been the policy that COVID-19 vaccination is required for all vaccine-eligible people at all activities taking place at and sponsored by Congregation Beth El (including private homes). That policy remains in place and now extends to children aged 5-11 years who are newly eligible for vaccination. All children currently ages 5 – 11 must be fully vaccinated by January 31, 2022 to continue to participate in in-person Beth El activities. As pediatric doses are anticipated to be increasingly and readily available, as children turn 5 and become vaccine eligible, they are expected to be fully vaccinated within two months of their birthday.

Additional information from the CDC regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and children can be found here. Information on vaccine availability for all ages in our area can be found here.

Masking: Masks will continue to be required when inside the building and at indoor Beth El-sponsored activities off-premises (including private homes) except when actively eating or drinking or speaking from the bimah without others in close proximity. Masks are not required at outdoor programs.

Religious School and Preschool: Beth El’s Religious School and Preschool are also following vaccination and masking guidelines. Additional information regarding vaccination and ongoing COVID protocols in the classrooms will be shared directly with enrolled families.

Virtual and outdoor programming and spaces will continue to be available. For those who are unvaccinated, feel more comfortable, or need to worship from home, Beth El continues to offer a number of online program options, including livestreams of Shabbat morning services, online learning opportunities, and other dedicated virtual experiences. In addition, should you prefer to eat outside, covered and heated outdoor seating will continue to be available for Kiddush luncheons, other meals, and programs.

As the pandemic continues to evolve and hopefully abate, we will continue to adjust. Our COVID Task Force continues to meet and will provide updated recommendations as necessary.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Henry Feller. Our continued thanks to the members of the COVID Task Force for their time, dedication, and thoughtful consideration.

B’Shalom,

Rabbi Greg Harris
Rabbi Deborah Megdal
Hazzan Asa Fradkin
Henry Feller, Executive Director
Jill Rider, President

August 5, 2021

Congregants,

As we have throughout the pandemic, Beth El continues to listen to science, follow the advice of our COVID Task Force, and make decisions based on data. Most importantly, we continue to be guided by our sacred obligation to keep our community safe. Given rising COVID case numbers and the upcoming High Holidays, the Beth El COVID Task Force has determined the following protocols that are effective immediately.  Please take a moment to read this important update on COVID protocols at Beth El.

Vaccine Requirements: Effective immediately, all indoor services and programs at Beth El and Beth El-sponsored events at other indoor locations (including private homes) will be limited to participants who are fully vaccinated or under age 12. Beth El is committed to protecting all congregants, including young families. Beth El looks to the congregation for honesty and respect for one another and will not require proof of vaccination at this time. Information on vaccine availability in our area can be found here.

Masking: Masks will continue to be required when inside the building except when actively eating or drinking or speaking from the bimah.

Upcoming B’nai Mitzvah: Beth El’s vaccination and masking requirements apply to all in-person attendees for upcoming b’nai mitzvah. Rabbi Harris has been in touch with b’nai mitzvah families directly and shared additional details pertaining to their simcha.

Religious School and Preschool: Beth El’s masking requirements apply to all students and teachers. Vaccination requirements apply to all students and teachers age 12 and older. The Religious School and Preschool will be in touch with enrolled families with additional information regarding back-to-school plans, online options, and COVID protocols in the classrooms and related to drop-off, pick-up, and family programs.

As the pandemic continues to evolve, so will we. Our COVID Task Force will continue to meet and provide updated recommendations as necessary. On a personal note, we want to take a moment to thank the members of the Task Force for their time and commitment to the Beth El community. These decisions are not easy and their recommendations are thorough, balanced, and made with great care.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Henry Feller.

B’Shalom,

Rabbi Greg Harris
Rabbi Deborah Megdal
Hazzan Asa Fradkin
Henry Feller, Executive Director
Jill Rider, President