Some area congregations cautiously open for services, others remain virtual for now
By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer
With summer approaching, some area Jewish congregations have begun to open for in-person services or are planning to, while others continue with virtual programming only.
The first to open for in-person services were Chabad of Greater Dayton in Oakwood and Temple Sholom in Springfield. Both opened on Shavuot.
Both emailed detailed social distancing guidelines to their regular worshipers to observe when in the buildings.
“We opened on Shavuot but also are Zooming from the temple for those who aren’t ready to come back yet,” said Rabbi Cary Kozberg of Temple Sholom’s Friday night services.
Beth Jacob Congregation in Harrison Township announced to its members that it planned to open for Shabbat services starting June 20. The letter also included its social distancing guidelines for those in the building.
Temple Anshe Emeth in Piqua plans to resume its in-person services at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 31 with its annual celebration of sacred music, featuring Temple Beth Or Music Leader and Choir Director Mary Rogers and her father, Steve Wyke.
“We will not have an Oneg but will be gathering with proper social distancing and masks,” said Judy Feinstein, an Anshe Emeth layleader.
Temple Beth Or in Washington Township will test out its first parking lot Shabbat at 6:30 p.m., Friday, June 26.
“People can stay in their cars and hear the music/prayers through FM transistors but see each other in person,” said Temple Beth Or Rabbi Judy Chessin.
Chessin said Temple Beth Or is on a phased plan based on Montgomery County statistics.
“Currently we are in Phase 1, which includes mostly online services and classes,” she said. “Lifecycle events are socially distanced inside or take place in our outdoor sanctuary. We have acquired streaming capabilities so as to include more attendees by Zoom.”
Yellow Springs Havurah member Len Kramer said the group has been holding virtual services since March. “We did meet in person, outside and socially-distanced, on June 6 and will continue that or virtual services, mostly depending on weather,” he said.
Congregations that have not set reopening dates at this time are Beth Abraham Synagogue in Oakwood, Temple Beth Sholom in Middletown, and Temple Israel in Dayton.
“We have a committee helping to plan for the safe reopening of Beth Abraham following the recommendations of public health authorities and utilizing the resources of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,” said Beth Abraham Business Director Elaine Arnovitz.
“We anticipate starting back slowly with a small group since the health and safety of our congregation is our primary concern and many of our congregants fall into high-risk categories. We’re in the process of looking at adding a camera and streaming services to augment the virtual services and programs we are currently offering.”
Courtney Cummings, Temple Israel’s music and program director, said her congregation is “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
“This virus is not likely going away anytime soon,” Cummings explained. “With that in mind, we are evaluating how we can continue to create meaningful Jewish experiences for everyone even when we decide to open our doors, knowing that there will be a population unable to join us in person for the foreseeable future due to various health circumstances.”
She described the temple’s shift to virtual connections as challenging and rewarding, “providing some limitations, but also new opportunities to elevate our community.”
One such initiative is its weekly virtual office hours with the temple’s clergy.
“As we move forward, it is our goal to establish a hybrid model of engagement, where we can include the best of the virtual world with the best of the physical world,” Cummings said.