With Broome County already in Phase 4 of reopening, which includes the New York state guidelines allowing indoor religious services to resume at 33 percent of capacity, Beth David Synagogue has begun holding indoor Shabbat morning services. There is limited seating available, less than the permitted 33 percent, and all open seats are more than the required six foot distancing from each other in all directions. The wearing of face masks is required anywhere in the building, services are held only in the main sanctuary and social distancing is required at all points in the building.
“Communal religious services are very important for our spiritual life and growth. Sadly, we have had to suspend these services in order to preserve our safety and health for an extended period of time,” says Rabbi Zev Silber, spiritual leader of Beth David. “Now that our community is successfully containing the spread of the deadly virus, we are cautiously and deliberately beginning the process of resuming this communal activity.”
There have been modifications made to the services in order to always keep social distancing. For example, the Torah reader is the only one who touches the scroll, which is carried directly to the reading table from the ark, without passing through the congregation for attendees to kiss. The person honored with an aliyah stands more than six feet away from the scroll, and recites the blessings before and after the aliyah without being able to see the words of the Torah or kissing it. He also returns to his seat before the next aliyah approaches. There is no kiddush after the service, since that is considered an invitation to ignore social distancing and face mask requirements.
Weekday services remain suspended except for Thursday mornings. Those services began on July 9 in the main sanctuary and follow the same rules as Shabbat services. The synagogue also plans to hold a service on the evening of Tisha B’Av, Wednesday, July 29, to commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem. The service will begin at 9 pm. The Thursday morning service will held be at 7 am with Mincha at 7:55 pm. Since there is limited capacity, anyone interested in attending may contact Silber at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to assure that there is room.