As discussed in our previous communication, our Reopening Committee has been monitoring the health situation over the past couple of weeks and together with medical professionals and public health experts, we have decided to begin Tefilah Betzibur (communal prayer service) in an outdoor setting starting with Mincha/Maariv on Sunday July 5th for our first week. This will give us additional time to slowly build a framework that is as safe as possible, per guidelines offered by the OU. After that, we will look to expand to weekday Shacharit and Shabbat services.
At this time, it is important to state clearly and loudly that during a pandemic no one is halakhically obligated, or should feel socially pressured, to attend communal prayer services. The COVID-19 pandemic persists, and there is some level of health-risk involved even in socially distanced, careful, outdoor services. We are reestablishing these particular services as a discretionary religious activity in hope that it creates a comforting sacred space for spiritual communal connection.
If you are unable to attend due to capacity limits or medical conditions, or you are choosing to opt out for any reason, we will be live-streaming all weekday services for the foreseeable future. Kabbalat Shabbat services will be virtual as well. All live-streaming will take place over CBI’s Zoom link (please contact email@example.com if you haven’t received the link).
The ability to continue this program is dependent on the continued decline in viral spread. Should a spike in infections occur, the County and City will order a return to its shelter in place order and all services will immediately stop.
1. Temporary Outdoor Location
We are pleased to announce that for the time being, services will be happening in the parking lot of Covenant Winery at 1102 6th St, Berkeley, CA 94710. We are extremely grateful to Covenant winery for letting us use their space.
We are currently working on another outdoor location in the vicinity of CBI that is inside the eruv. We are hoping to use this future space for weekday and Shabbat services when they resume. Please stay tuned for details.
2. Who can attend?
A. To attend our outdoor services, one must meet ALL the following criteria:
• Be completely free of any COVID-19 symptoms as described by the CDC. Anyone with any of the following symptoms cannot attend:
o Fever or chills
o Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
o Muscle or body aches
o New loss of taste or smell
o Sore throat
o Congestion or runny nose
o Nausea or vomiting
o Unexplained rash or discoloration of fingers and toes
• Anyone who does not feel well may not attend, even without these specific symptoms.
• Do not attend services if you have had close contact with someone who has recently or currently displays upper respiratory or flu-like symptoms or has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
B. If you have been infected with COVID-19 or have had close contact with an ill individual with the above symptoms, do not attend services for at least two weeks after last contact with this individual. All these cases will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by R. Cohen in consultation with medical professionals before one is allowed to attend services.
C. One may not have traveled by plane or undertaken any activity in which you had close contact with unmasked individuals in a high risk setting in the past 14 days.
D. Those over the age of 65 or in a high-risk group (i.e. diabetic, high blood pressure, heart or lung disease, or other underlying health condition, etc.) must consult with their physician AND R. Cohen in order to attend.
E. Attendees must be over the age of bar/bat mitzvah.
3. How do I join a service?
• In complying with the City of Berkeley guidelines, initially there will be a limit of 25 people for our services.
• There will be sections for both men and women.
• We will be giving priority only to:
o Those in the week of shiva or shloshim.
o Those who are saying kaddish during the year of mourning or on a Yahrzeit.
o All exceptions are at the discretion of Rabbi Cohen.
• You must use our signup link to attend a service (please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the link)
• Confirmation will be sent to you after signup and a reminder will be sent to all attendees 24 hours before the service.
• One may not attend a service unless they have signed up online beforehand. It is important for us to ensure we don’t exceed our maximum capacity and that we can also track everyone who attends each and every service.
• If you do not turn up for your pre-booked spot, your ability to book future spots may be at risk. If you need to cancel, you must do so no less than 6 hours before the start time by cancelling on the SignUpGenius app or by emailing the prayer coordinator at email@example.com
4. Some of the Service protocols
Prior to the service:
• Bring all your own needed items (siddur, chumash, tallis) and chair if you want.
• Arrive and leave in a timely manner (preferably one by one) for the sole purpose of davening; no conversing/socializing with others or congregating during services or outside on the street afterwards.
• Wash your hands before coming to services. Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance and should be used upon entry and leaving. High touch areas will also be regularly sanitized.
• Everyone will be able to take a designated, socially-distant spot that will be laid out on the ground for you.
o Stay in your designated location from when you arrive until when you leave; members of the same household can share each other’s space.
• Ensure the outdoor space is ready for tefillah, including the following:
o Everyone’s spots for tefillah are clearly marked and set up
• The prayer leader is designated in advance
• Be prepared to have no access to a restroom or other facilities.
During the service:
• Wear a mask, covering nose and mouth, the entire time you are present at the service (please bring your own).
• People keep at least 6 feet of distance from each other.
• Do not enter the nearby buildings/houses for any purpose.
• The services will be shorter, minimal singing, and we must be mindful of neighbors especially early in the morning.
• For the time being, we will not be reading from the Torah (including during fast days).
• There will be no food served. Please do not bring any food or snacks.
o One may bring a small bottle of water for themselves
• If it rains, the service will be canceled. Under no circumstances will the service be moved inside.
After the services:
• There is to be no socializing after services. Please leave the service quickly and quietly after tefillah (praying) has finished.
• Immediately notify the service coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org if you develop any COVID-19 symptoms/concerns. Do not wait for more formal medical consultation and/or testing for confirmation. Do not attend services again until the symptoms and concerns are resolved, as determined by a competent medical professional.
Please remember that we are dealing with an important health emergency – anyone who is not following the above guidelines will not be allowed to attend services. Additionally, community discipline at large is required for these services to continue, and for us to progress to subsequent stages as time goes on.
As we take this significant step towards resuming in-person services, let us each commit to doubling our efforts to reach out to one another, and most especially to those whose opportunities for social and communal connections have been significantly reduced by this pandemic. Whether praying alone at home, connecting to prayer virtually, or attending these services in person, we pray that Hashem hears our prayers wherever we are found.
Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
Dan Magid, CBI President
Noah Nathan, Chair
Dr. Talya Brettler, MD, MPH
Carol Cunradi, MPH, PhD
Dr. Asaf Shor, MD
Maharat Victoria Sutton