As Covid conditions change and newer virus strains spread, our policies for High Holiday attendance evolve as well. We have made some significant changes, which we hope will keep everyone safer.
First, to attend indoor services, everyone 12 and older must be vaccinated. You must provide proof of vaccine either by uploading your vaccine card or Excelsior pass before the tickets are mailed, beginning August 30 – the best option – or at least by bringing a paper copy to synagogue on the holiday (or even both, to minimize the chance of a record-keeping mistake). We are sorry, but if you do not provide proof of vaccination, we cannot admit you to the synagogue.
Our initial iteration followed what was the prevalent guidance from New York State that a limited number of unvaccinated individuals 12 and older could attend indoor events with a negative Covid test. Given the transmissibility of the Delta variant, we are revoking that policy. Everyone who can be vaccinated must be vaccinated.
We are still admitting unvaccinated kids under 12 to indoor services. Our medical advisors – including experts in epidemiology and infectious disease, and pediatricians and primary care physicians who work clinically with kids and families – feel that younger children face sufficiently low risks that they can attend safely. Given the unreliability of rapid tests and the potentially long processing time for PCR tests, it is not practical to require negative test results for children to be admitted to synagogue, as we had required at first. Some synagogues have excluded unvaccinated younger kids from indoor services. For now, we consider this unnecessary. But we do ask families who bring their unvaccinated kids to keep strict 6-foot distance from those outside their pods. Please, families, maximize distance from others by sitting in the balcony, or at least sit beside the windows on either side of the sanctuary.
The next important change is that we will require everyone who attends to remain masked throughout services. The only exception is that people can choose to unmask while taking ritual leadership roles, such as reading or chanting. (In these cases, participants will always be at least 15 feet from others.) The earlier policy left masking as an open question. Given the transmissibility of the Delta variant and the incidence of fully vaccinated people contracted the virus, we are resolving it now. Masks back on.
My original letter is below, edited to reflect these policies.
Dear People of Love and Kindness,
On behalf of the clergy, staff, officers and lay leaders, let me wish you a sweet and healthy new year. We could not be more excited to return to public services for Ansche Chesed’s High Holidays, 5782.
Our plans for executing safe and satisfying services are the product of lengthy consultations with our re-opening committee, which includes infectious disease and epidemiology experts and practicing primary care clinicians, and the High Holiday committee, as well as the data gleaned from our June membership survey. I am very grateful to everyone who participated in this process. Of course, changing Covid conditions might alter some of these details. But we hope that what we describe here will enable us to meet as many people’s needs as possible.
Here are the important highlights, which will inform you what to expect and enable you to register and participate.
- All 2021-22 Ansche Chesed members who want to attend Sanctuary services in person will be able to come. However, because spaces will be limited, we will have to take turns, and not everyone will be able to attend every service.
- Up to 500 people can attend each Sanctuary service in-person throughout the holidays, or about 40 percent of the room’s capacity.
- All Sanctuary services also will be Live Streamed, so that those who cannot or choose not to attend a particular service can still participate with the community.
- Sanctuary seating will be “open,” or unassigned. We ask that attendees distribute themselves throughout the room, with up to 350 sitting on the floor level, and up to 150 sitting in the balcony.
- If you have mobility challenges and you need extra seating space, please let us know and we will designate a specific place that meets your needs.
- Rosh HaShanah afternoon will include an outdoor Musaf service, aimed primarily for the immunocompromised or unvaccinated who cannot or choose not to attend indoors. If demand is sufficient, we may have this service on both days of Rosh HaShanah as well as Yom Kippur.
- Each day of Rosh HaShanah will include outdoor Shofar blowing on the West End Avenue steps.
- Yom Kippur will conclude with Shema Israel, shofar blowing, lightstick parade and Havdalah on 100th Street. Next Year in Jerusalem!
- Children’s services will take place on the roof.
- Minyan M’at will meet in Hirsch Hall.
- West Side Minyan will meet on the 5th floor.
- Each Minyan will determine its own methods for assigning places.
- The safety and public health guidelines apply equally to the Sanctuary and minyan services.
SAFETY AND PUBLIC HEALTH
- Everyone attending any AC High Holiday services in-person must pre-register. We cannot accept walk-ins.
- Everyone 12 and over must be vaccinated to attend indoor services.
- As per New York State guidelines, the “honor system” is insufficient for documenting vaccinations. All attendees must provide proof, either by uploading documents when requesting to attend, or by bringing paper documents and photo ID when you attend synagogue. To be extra sure there is no mistake in record keeping, it would be wise to do both.
- Vaccinated adults need not maintain social distancing once in the room and may sit anywhere.
- Children 11 and under, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, may attend indoor services with their parents. Children need not demonstrate negative test results to be admitted.
- Unvaccinated children and their parents should be sure to maintain a strict 6-foot distance from other attendees. Please maximize distance from others by sitting in the balcony, or at least near the windows on either side of the sanctuary.
- All attendees must remain masked throughout services. Those taking liturgical leadership roles, such as reading or chanting, can choose to unmask at those times.
- Here is Ansche Chesed’s electronic form to request seats for Sanctuary services. Minyan Ma’at and the Westside Minyan will distribute their own forms to their members. Submitting this form is a request to attend services; it is not a confirmed registration. Because of the limited number of places at each Sanctuary service, we will have to manage the many requests and distribute the places fairly. You may consider yourselves registered when you receive emailed tickets from the office.
- In general, the places will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. So please submit the form promptly.
- This year, AC will not mail paper tickets. We will email attendance tickets – beginning on August 30 for Rosh HaShanah and September 9 for Yom Kippur – which members should print out and bring with them to the synagogue, along with photo ID and proof of vaccination as noted above. Our ushers and security staff will have registration lists, to admit those who forgot their tickets.
- Because of the limited number of places at each Sanctuary service, only members renewed or enrolled for 2021-22 can receive tickets. So please join or renew your membership at your earliest convenience.
- Beginning August 25, if places remain free, we will begin to sell additional tickets to members so they can invite immediate family members – their parents or adult children – to join them.
MENU OF SANCTUARY SERVICES
- Because of the limited number of places at each Sanctuary service, we will have to take turns.
- On the electronic ticket request forms, we will ask you to choose among options:
- Attend either of the two mornings of Rosh HaShanah.
- Attend either an early or a late seating of Kol Nidre.
- Attend either of two morning services on Yom Kippur: Shaharit or Musaf. Both services would include Torah reading and Yizkor.
- Additionally, members can register for Rosh HaShanah eve services and Yom Kippur afternoon + Neilah, regardless of what other services they have attended.
- Additionally, members can sign up for a waitlist for the services they could not reserve. In the event that a given service remains undersubscribed, we can add from the waitlist, even if those members attended earlier services. For example, members who enroll for Rosh HaShanah-1, might come off the waitlist for Rosh HaShanah-2 as well.
To all our members, we wish you a wonderful shana tovah u’metukah, a sweet and healthy new year. In the words of אחות קטנה/Ahot Ketana/”Little Sister,” a beloved Rosh HaShanah poem from 13th century Spain: תכלה שנה וקללותיה ותחל שנה וברכותיה, tikhleh shana vekil’loteha, tehel shana u’virkoteiha. Let this accursed year end, let the blessed new year begin!