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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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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


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 or Cantor Laura Berman at, 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


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.


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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.

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Sun, June 13 2021 3 Tammuz 5781