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Temple Sinai Reopening: Phase III Plan and Guidelines

(Effective Date of this Plan: August 5, 2021)

Participation in Temple Sinai events—services, Life Cycle events (such as baby namings, Britot Milah, weddings, B’nai Mitzvah, funerals), meetings, and other opportunities to be with others in our community—are sacred events. They sanctify relationships in families, with the synagogue, and within the Jewish community. For more than a year, COVID-19 has presented risks for everyone who attends and participates in these events and as a result we have adopted and subsequently modified policies that significantly restricted Temple activities.  In light of evolving scientific knowledge, developing public health data, and revised guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) we are again updating our policy in phases and in a manner that  balances the values of Kedushah – sanctity, Mishpachah – family, and Pikuach Nefesh – the preservation of life.

As over the last year, this updated policy and our practices will be reviewed continually by the Temple Sinai Reopening Committee, with the oversight of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees, based on and subject to guidelines and statistics from the CDC, Allegheny County, and other governmental authorities and directives.

In this document, we describe the next phase of Temple Sinai’s COVID planning: namely our Phase III Reopening Plan and Guidelines.  In light of the recent spread of the Delta variant of COVID, as well as CDC, Commonwealth, and local recommendations, and consideration of our Jewish values, the transition from Phase II (begun July 1) to Phase III (August 5) reflects increased precautions for in-person gatherings at Temple Sinai.

Please note that due to the rapidly-developing public health situation, the Board has delegated approval of further modifications to the Executive Committee.

Attendees

  • Fully vaccinated” means at least 2 weeks after the second shot of a 2-shot regimen, such as Pfizer or Moderna, and after the single shot for a 1-shot regimen, such as Johnson & Johnson. “Temple Sinai property” includes, but is not limited to, 5505 Forbes Avenue (buildings and grounds) and the Temple Sinai Memorial Park.

  • Anyone attending an in-person event (indoors or outdoors) or otherwise on the premises at Temple Sinai:

    • must be fully vaccinated, with the exception of children under the age of 12, for whom a vaccine is not yet available, and those for whom vaccination is not possible (see below)

    • must wear a mask at all times with only the following exceptions:

      • children under the age of two (2) are not required to wear a mask;

      • the individual leading services may remove the mask only when at the bimah.  This is generally meant to include clergy and the individual celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah (joined by family for the “blessing”).  The podium will be significantly distanced from congregation seating; and

      • clergy and staff when alone in an office.

  • Signs will advise all individuals that by entering Temple Sinai grounds they are asserting that (a) they have been fully vaccinated,  (b) they will wear a mask at all times, (c) they are not experiencing symptoms of COVID or aware of any recent exposure, and (d) they agree to comply with all COVID requirements while on Temple Sinai grounds.  (Exceptions will be made as indicated above.)

  • Temple Sinai will provide masks for those who did not bring one.

  • While Temple Sinai staff will not currently be verifying vaccination status, we rely on the honesty of our members and their guests and reserve the right to prohibit entry to anyone for health-related reasons.

  • Those for whom vaccination is not possible should consult with the Executive Director, who, in consultation with the Reopening Committee, will seek accommodations (such as distanced seating) for participation in Temple Sinai events.

Spaces and Technology

  • For the Leebov Sanctuary:

    • The walls on both sides of the “Slate area” will be left open during services, allowing the sanctuary and the Falk Auditorium to form a single space for better air flow and greater distancing for those who wish it.

    • While we are not currently limiting capacity, pre-registration will be requested (web form (preferred), email, or phone) for Shabbat services and some other events to support the Executive Director and staff in planning and preparing spaces. We will not refuse entry to those who are unregistered, but will require those who enter to check in, including for purposes of contact tracing.

  • The minyan group will be permitted to meet in the Barnett Chapel and will use hybrid format for services (using a laptop or other computer to videoconference or stream the service).

  • More broadly, hybrid (in person and virtual) programming will be implemented wherever possible going forward.

General Rules for Temple Sinai Gatherings

  • Overall Allegheny County and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania guidance must be followed at all times. It is understood that this guidance may change on short notice or no notice. Note that, based on health conditions, with little or no notice, any indoor or in-person events may be prohibited by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or Allegheny County or modified, limited, postponed, canceled, or reverted to a virtual format by Temple Sinai.

  • Temple Sinai will post signs with directions and reminders, will ensure that hand sanitizer and masks are available, and may designate specific seating areas as conditions dictate.

  • Temple Sinai may check attendee temperatures immediately prior to the start of any event (e.g. on arrival) and deny attendance to anyone who declines to have a temperature check, whose temperature exceeds guidelines, or who is exhibiting symptoms of illness.

  • Attendees will follow clergy directions for safe handling of the Torah, yod, and other artifacts.

  • No food will be allowed at events.  Individual bottled water may be provided.  Note that during this Phase III, the cooking classes that had resumed during Phase II are suspended.


 

Temple Sinai Reopening: Phase II Plan and Guidelines
Effective Date of this Plan: July 1, 2021

Participation in Temple Sinai events – services, Life Cycle events (such as baby namings, Britot Milah, weddings, B’nai Mitzvah, funerals), meetings, and other opportunities to be with others in our community – are sacred events. They sanctify relationships in families, with the synagogue, and within the Jewish community. For more than a year, COVID-19 has presented risks for everyone who attends and participates in these events and as a result we adopted policies that significantly restricted Temple activities.  Now, in light of increasing vaccination rates, evolving scientific knowledge, public health data, and revised guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) we are updating our policy in phases and in a manner that  balances the values of Kedushah – sanctity, Mishpachah – family, and Pikuach Nefesh – the preservation of life.

As over the last year, this updated policy and our practices will be reviewed continually by the Temple Sinai Reopening Committee, with the oversight of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees, based on and subject to guidelines and statistics from the CDC, Allegheny County, and other governmental authorities and directives.

In this document, we describe the next phase of Temple Sinai’s COVID planning: namely our Phase II Reopening Plan and Guidelines.  In light of the high vaccination rate and dramatically reduced COVID case counts in Allegheny County and Pennsylvania, as well as CDC, Commonwealth and local recommendations, and consideration of our Jewish values, the transition from Phase I (begun June 4) to Phase II (July 1) reflects an easing of restrictions on in-person gatherings at Temple Sinai.

In addition, due to the rapidly-developing public health situation, the Board has delegated approval of further modifications to the Executive Committee.

Temple Sinai Reopening Phase I Policies and Practices

Attendees

  • “Fully vaccinated” means at least 2 weeks after the second shot of a 2-shot regimen, such as Pfizer or Moderna, and after the single shot for a 1-shot regimen, such as Johnson & Johnson. “Temple Sinai property” includes, but is not limited to, 5505 Forbes Avenue and the Temple Sinai Memorial Park.

  • Anyone attending an in-person event (indoors or outdoors) at Temple Sinai and who is not fully vaccinated (including children under the age of 12, for whom a vaccine is not yet available)  must wear a mask at all times with only the following exceptions:

    • children under the age of two (2) are not required to wear a mask; and

    • even if not fully vaccinated, the individual (not family) celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah  may remove the mask only when at the bimah.  In this case, Temple Sinai may place a plastic shield on the bimah podium to protect the congregation.

  • Signs will advise all individuals that by entering Temple Sinai grounds, they are asserting that (a) they have been fully vaccinated or will wear a mask at all times, (b) they are not experiencing symptoms of COVID or aware of any recent exposure, and (c) they agree to comply with all COVID requirements while on Temple Sinai grounds.

  • Temple Sinai will provide masks for those who are not fully vaccinated or those who wish to wear a mask (for their own comfort or to provide comfort or reassurance for others).

  • Temple Sinai staff will not be verifying vaccination status.

  • Those for whom vaccination or masks are medically contraindicated should consult with the Executive Director, who, in consultation with the Reopening Committee, will seek accommodations for participation in Temple Sinai events.

Spaces and Technology

  • For the Leebov Sanctuary:

    • The walls on both sides of the “Slate area” will be left open during services, allowing the sanctuary and the Falk Auditorium to form a single space for better air flow and greater distancing for those who wish it.

    • While we are not limiting capacity, pre-registration will be requested (web form (preferred), email, or phone) for Shabbat services and some other events to support the Executive Director and staff in planning and preparing spaces. We will not refuse entry to those who are unregistered, but will monitor practices to facilitate future planning.

  • The minyan group will be permitted to meet in the Barnett Chapel and will use hybrid format for services (using a laptop or other computer to videoconference or stream the service).

  • More broadly, hybrid (in person and virtual) programming will be implemented wherever possible going forward.

General Rules for Temple Sinai Gatherings

  • Overall Allegheny County and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania guidance must be followed at all times. It is understood that this guidance may change on short notice or no notice. Note that, based on health conditions, with little or no notice, any indoor or in-person events may be prohibited by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or Allegheny County or modified, limited, postponed, canceled, or reverted to a virtual format by Temple Sinai.

  • Temple Sinai will post signs with directions and reminders, will ensure that hand sanitizer and masks are available, and may designate specific seating areas as conditions dictate.

  • Temple Sinai may check attendee temperatures immediately prior to the start of any event (e.g. on arrival) and deny attendance to anyone who declines to have a temperature check or whose temperature exceeds guidelines.

  • Attendees will follow clergy directions for safe handling of the Torah, yod, and other artifacts.

  • No food will be allowed at events.  Individual bottled water may be provided. Note that this policy is continuing in Phase II, in part due to the presence of unvaccinated individuals, who will need to remove their masks to eat. Exception: however, cooking groups/classes will be allowed to resume in the kitchen, provided all of the attendees are vaccinated.

Temple Sinai Reopening: Phase I Plan and Guidelines
Effective Date of this Plan: June 4, 2021

Participation in Temple Sinai events -- services, Life Cycle events (such as baby namings, Britot Milah, weddings, B’nai Mitzvah, funerals), meetings, and other opportunities to be with others in our community are sacred events. They sanctify relationships in families, with the synagogue, and within the Jewish community. For more than a year, COVID-19 has presented risks for everyone who attends and participates in these events and as a result we adopted policies that significantly restricted Temple activities.  Now, in light of increasing vaccination rates, evolving scientific knowledge, public health data, and revised guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) it is time to update our policy in a manner that  balances the values of Kedushah – sanctity, Mishpachah – family, and Pikuach Nefesh – the preservation of life.

As over the last year, this updated policy and our practices will be reviewed continually by the Temple Sinai Reopening Committee, with the oversight of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees, based on and subject to guidelines and statistics from the CDC, Allegheny County, and other governmental authorities and directives.

In this document, we describe the next phase of Temple Sinai’s COVID planning: namely our Phase I Reopening Plan and Guidelines.
In the following we define a “family pod” or “pod” as individuals living together or individuals choosing to so identify to Temple Sinai.

ATTENDEES

  • During Phase I, anyone attending an event inside or outside on Temple Sinai property (including but not limited to 5505 Forbes Avenue and the Memorial Park) must be fully vaccinated (defined as at least 2 weeks after the second shot of a 2-shot regimen, such as Pfizer or Moderna, and after the single shot for a 1-shot regimen, such as Johnson & Johnson).  Exception:  Children under 12, for whom vaccines are not yet authorized, may attend. (Also see below for medical contraindication.)
  • Anyone attending an in-person event (indoors or outdoors) must wear a mask at all times with only the following exceptions:
    • the individual (not family) celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah is the only one who may remove the mask and only when at the bimah.  The bimah podium will have a plastic shield in place to protect the congregation.
    • Clergy will wear “singing masks.”
    • Staff are not required to wear masks if alone when in their offices.
    • For non-events (e.g. staff only) or small meetings with at most 10 individuals in a suitably large space (per COVID capacity):  groups of up to 10 fully-vaccinated individuals (clergy, staff, and volunteers/visitors) may gather unmasked, provided (a) they remain 6 feet apart at all times and (b) all of those in the meeting agree that it is acceptable to remove masks.
  • Signs will advise all individuals that by entering Temple Sinai grounds, they are asserting that (a) they have been fully vaccinated (or under 12), (b) they are not experiencing symptoms of COVID or aware of any recent exposure, and (c) they agree to comply with all requirements including masking and distancing while on Temple Sinai grounds.
  • Temple Sinai staff will not be verifying vaccination status.
  • Those with medical conditions (other than children under 12, as above) for whom vaccination or masks are medically contraindicated will consult with the Executive Director, who will seek approval from the Reopening Committee.

SPACES

  • Each Temple Sinai space (inside or outside) will have a designated and posted COVID capacity (which is less than the normal capacity of the same space, ~100 sq. ft./person), based on the ability to physically distance, including between pods.
  • For the Leebov Sanctuary:
    • Temple staff will rope off or designate pod seating areas.  The back wall of the sanctuary will be left open, allowing the sanctuary and the Falk Auditorium to form a single space for better air flow.  (We estimate the COVID capacity of the sanctuary at about 70 with another 70 in the auditorium).
    • Seating in the sanctuary will be only in pods.
    • To manage capacity, pre-registration for services will be required (web form (preferred), email, or phone) with priority given to those registering (a) for a bar/bat mitzvah or (b) to say kaddish. Others will be accepted on a first-in basis.

GENERAL RULES FOR TEMPLE SINAI GATHERINGS

  • Note that, with little or no notice, any indoor or in-person events, including Temple Sinai events, may be prohibited by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or Allegheny County based on health conditions.
  • Temple Sinai also reserves the right to postpone, cancel, revert to a virtual format, or change Temple Sinai event personnel for any in-person event with little or no notice, based on health conditions.
  • Temple Sinai will post signs with directions and reminders, and will ensure that hand sanitizer and masks are available.
  • Specific seating areas may be designated in rooms and spaces (in addition to the sanctuary, above) as conditions dictate.
  • Overall Allegheny County and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania guidance must be followed at all times. It is understood that this guidance may change on short notice or no notice.
  • Temple Sinai reserves the right to deny attendance to anyone based on changing health conditions or concerns.
  • Temple Sinai may, in its sole discretion, check attendee temperatures immediately prior to the start of any event (e.g. on arrival) and deny attendance to anyone who refuses to have a temperature check or whose temperature exceeds guidelines.
  • Attendees will follow clergy directions for safe handling of the Torah, yod, and other artifacts.
  • No food will be allowed at events.  Individual bottled water may be provided.
  • Attendees will use only the general restrooms on the main floor.
  • Hybrid in-person/virtual programming will be made available, to the extent practicable.

Our Coronavirus Response

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FROM TEMPLE SINAI FOR COVID-19 CRISIS

Thanks to an anonymous grant, we have funds available to help those in the Temple Sinai family facing short-term financial difficulties. 

If you would like to receive a grant of $250 or $500, please contact Rabbi Jamie Gibson at RabbiGibson@TempleSinaiPGH.org or Cantor Laura Berman at CantorBerman@TempleSinaiPGH.org, who will arrange for you to privately receive financial assistance.

COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Grants

Grants with no repayment are available—for immediate and pressing expenses related to financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis. (412) 521-3237 or JewishAssistanceFund.org.


 

COVID-19 UPDATE WHAT DOES YELLOW MEAN FOR TEMPLE SINAI?
 
As Allegheny County moves to the “yellow” phase, you may have questions about Temple Sinai. Remember, this still means to continue to limit public gatherings, even in small numbers.

Both the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) have issued guidelines to continue to avoid in-person rituals, services, and ceremonies as much as possible. Exceptions have been made with graveside funerals, conducted with only a couple family members and with social distancing. Locally, and working as a community, the Rabbis of the Reform and Conservative congregations will be acting in concert to determine reopening plans.

The Temple Sinai reopening committee, co-chaired by Josh Lederer and Bill Taxay, has been formed to create a road map and policy recommendations for when Temple Sinai reopens and are addressing the issues and challenges to be considered. 

We will continue to be closed to all in-person gatherings until June 8 (at least) while offering services, classes, and meetings with clergy online and via teleconferencing. As the situation evolves, we will continue to update the congregation. 

And, remember, WE ARE HERE FOR YOU! Please reach out to us if you have any spiritual, physical, or financial needs during this challenging time.


 

Connecting Virtually & Spiritually (March 23)

While we may not be able to be together physically, we can still gather virtually as a community for prayer, programming, and Jewish learning. Please note that, AS OF NOW, all Temple Sinai programming has transitioned online through April 16.

As of today, March 23, all Temple Sinai staff and clergy are working remotely except when their essential responsibilities require being in the building. We are still accessible via phone and email and will reply to you as quickly as possible. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are in need.

A Special Message Concerning Passover 2020/5780 (March 26)

As we approach Pesach this year, we have a new reality to contend with that will shift both how we think about the holiday and how we celebrate it. We are realizing that plagues can still impact our lives and that the freedoms we take for granted can quickly be limited by unexpected circumstances. We are also learning just how important it can be to curtail our own freedom for the safety and well-being of others. [...]


 


 

Temple Sinai cancelling in-person classes, events, meetings, and programs. Shabbat services will be live streamed. (March 16, 1 PM)

Dear Friends,
As it becomes more and more clear that social distancing is critical to limiting the impact of COVID-19, your Board, clergy, and senior leadership have made the following difficult decisions. We feel strongly that we have the social responsibility to do our part to “flatten the curve” in order to protect public health. [...]

Temple Sinai closing NextDOR and Hebrew School (March 13, 10 PM)

Dear Friends,
As a synagogue, the health and safety of our congregation and the communities around us, in particular those who are most vulnerable, is of highest importance. Temple Sinai consists of a wonderfully diverse group of people, spanning the age spectrum, in addition to the health spectrum. Jewish tradition teaches that how we protect and care for the most vulnerable among us is the ultimate measure of who we are and what we value. As you may have heard, today Governor Wolf closed all Pennsylvania schools. [...]

Cancellations & Rescheduled Events/Meeting (March 13, 2020)

As we monitor the spread of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, we write to share with you how Temple Sinai is responding. We invite your partnership in both mitigating the spread of the illness and helping us conduct our sacred work under modified conditions. [...]

 

Coronavirus Safety Update, March 12, 2020

Dear Temple Sinai Community,
As we monitor the spread of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, we write to share with you how Temple Sinai is responding. We invite your partnership in both mitigating the spread of the illness and helping us conduct our sacred work under modified conditions. [...]

Mon, September 27 2021 21 Tishrei 5782