COVID-19 Safety Protocols for Ramat Shalom’s Sanctuary Building

Updated December 16, 2020

In response to COVID-19 and Ramat Shalom’s desire to safely reopen our sanctuary, the following protocols have been put in place. These protocols are based on CDC guidelines; federal, state and local law; the guidance of Ramat Shalom’s Medical Committee; our Board of Directors and staff.  We continue to learn more about this novel virus; if we learn new prevention and/or other applicable guidelines, we will update our protocols outlined below.

Please note, as we slowly reopen, services, classes and other events will continue to be broadcast on Zoom and/or Facebook Live. 

Currently, we have opened our Sanctuary Building for B’nai Mitzvah services and weddings. To ensure everyone’s safety, gatherings will be limited to 40 people. A list of all attendees will need to be submitted to the synagogue office no later than four days before an event. Only those whose names are on the list will be admitted. This list must include photographers/videographers.

Friday night services will remain online and/or in the parking lot (please check our Facebook Page for the Drive-In Shabbat schedule) during this time period. They are currently not being held in the Sanctuary Building. 

We thank all of you in advance for familiarizing yourselves with these protocols and adhering to them. We can’t wait for the day that we can toss these aside! But, for now, we need them to keep us all safe. 

Entrance & Exit Protocols

The sanctuary building will open 15 minutes before a service. For everyone’s safety, no early admittance allowed.

Social distancing is required at all times. All adults and children over the age of two are required to wear face coverings at all times.

All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) must:

·         Be made with at least 2 layers of breathable material

·         Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin

·         Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face

·         Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the individual to remain hands-free

At this time, based on guidance from the medical committee, neck gaiters, open chin triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable. 

Temperatures will be taken prior to entering the building. If you are not feeling well, we ask that you do not attend services or other events at Ramat Shalom. If you are concerned that you have been exposed to COVID-19, please contact your physician before visiting Ramat Shalom to determine if it is safe for you to attend services or other events. If you are awaiting a COVID-19 test result, we ask that you do not attend services or other events at Ramat Shalom until you have received a negative test result and received clearance from your physician.

For everyone’s safety, only two people will be allowed in each restroom at a time. There will be an attendant who will monitor the restrooms. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the sanctuary building. We ask for everyone’s help to ensure that social distancing is adhered to. While we do not anticipate any issues, we do reserve the right to ask anyone who does not adhere to our social distancing protocols to leave the premises.

To protect the health of everyone who attends services, we will not admit anyone who has a fever or is displaying any other signs of illness.

At this time, gatherings in the Sanctuary Building are limited to 40 people. Our sanctuary has been reconfigured to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Prior to COVID-19, we were able to seat close to 900 people in our sanctuary. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, we have reduced this to 112 people. Chairs have been spread out throughout the sanctuary in 56 groups of two. There is at least six feet between each group of chairs. Those who live together may sit next to each other in a pair of seats. If you attend services in the sanctuary by yourself, you will be given two seats for yourself. Children under the age of six may sit on the laps of the adults they came with or on the floor next to chairs these adults are sitting in. We’re sorry, chairs can’t be moved to make larger groups. In adherence with CDC guidelines, we ask that there is no socializing in the sanctuary. Please stay in or right near your seats.

Kippot, Tallitot, Siddurim, Chumashim, Supplements

Following the guidance of medical experts who are discouraging us from sharing any objects at this time, there will be no kippot (skull caps) or tallitot (prayer shawls) available in the sanctuary. Please feel free to bring your own kippah and/or tallit.

For the same reason listed above, we will no longer hand out siddurim (prayer books) or chumashim (the book that contains the Torah portion). The siddur will be available for download on to phones and tablets. It will also be projected onto screens. The Torah and Haftarah portions and supplement information will be projected onto screens as well. Once you register for a service, you will receive a link to download the siddur. Ramat Shalom congregants who plan to watch services on Facebook can request a link that will allow them to download the siddur by contacting the office.

Bimah and Participation Protocols

All experts are telling us that it is imperative to practice strict social distancing within the sanctuary. While we continue to create the warm and welcoming prayer space that makes Ramat Shalom so special, we ask that you help to ensure the well-being of everyone that joins us in the sanctuary by adhering to the protocols below.

The Rabbi and Cantor will be socially distanced on the Bimah. They will be wearing face shields and standing behind plexiglass that surrounds their tables as they lead services. You will notice that they will not speak and sing as loudly as they normally do. This is because all experts assert that speaking and singing gently in a congregational space significantly reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19. The Rabbi and Cantor will be using their own microphones. When they are not leading services, the Rabbi and Cantor will be wearing a mask. To keep them safe, we ask that no one but the Rabbi and Cantor come to the Bimah.

As mentioned above, singing loudly is a high-risk activity.  We ask that if you do sing, you do so quietly and with your mask on. Please remember, masks must be worn throughout the service – even when reading Torah, leading a prayer or a reading.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah and certain service participants will speak from the new Reader’s Table located on the floor in front of the Bimah. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah child ONLY may wear a face shield instead of a mask.  However, when the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child is sitting with the congregation, he/she must be wearing their mask. Please contact the office for information about purchasing the face shield.

The Reader’s Table will also be surrounded by plexiglass. Other participants may speak from their seats when appropriate. Only the Rabbi may speak from his table. Only the Cantor may speak from her table.

The microphone on the Reader’s Table will be covered with a foam cap that will be cleaned after each service. We ask that no one but Ramat Shalom staff touch this microphone.  The Rabbi’s and Cantor’s microphones will be used only by them.

Those who live together will be permitted to gather in a small group in front of the bimah for special rituals such as handing a tallit to a child or a baby naming. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, the Rabbi and Cantor will stay at least six away from these groups and all individuals in the sanctuary.

Torah and Ritual Protocols

As mentioned above, medical experts are discouraging us from sharing objects at this time. Therefore, we have enacted the following protocols that will be in place during all of our services:

  • The Torah will not be passed among service participants and paraded around the sanctuary. Only the Rabbi or Cantor will hold the Torah and other ritual objects. When they do so, they will remain on the Bimah.
  • Only the Rabbi and Cantor will light Shabbat candles.
  • There will be no ark openers.
  • There will be no lifting and dressing of the Torah by anyone but the Rabbi and Cantor.
  • During a service when the Torah is read, the Rabbi or Cantor will place Torah on the Reader’s Table and set Torah to the correct position.
  • The Torah Reader will be called to the Torah by the Rabbi or Cantor once Torah is in place.
  • The Torah Reader will take a yad (pointer) from the “Clean Yad Box” on the Reader’s Table.
  • Rabbi or Cantor will stand on the opposite side of the plastic screen on the Reader’s Table and direct the reader using a laser pointer.
  • Once Reader is done, he/she will place yad in the “Used Yad Box,” and apply antibacterial gel to hands and return to his/her seat.

Those taking an Aliyah to the Torah will be invited to do so from their seats. They will rise and say the Aliyah.

The Aliyah Blessings, Torah readings, Haftarah Blessings and Haftarah reading will be displayed on the screens in the sanctuary.

Unfortunately, to adhere to health guidelines, there will be no community Challah, Kiddush or Oneg. For the time being, for everyone’s protection, there will be no serving of any food or any social gatherings in the sanctuary building or in the atrium. We look forward to a time when we can lift these restrictions.

Friday night, Shabbat morning and afternoon services will remain engaging, but will be abbreviated, lasting no more than one hour and fifteen minutes.

Photography/Videography Protocols

For B’nai Mitzvah and other celebrations in our sanctuary, COVID-19 requires that we put the following protocols in place regarding photography and videography. We apologize for any inconvenience that results from these protocols. Please know we are instituting them to ensure the well-being of the entire Ramat Shalom family:

  • One photographer/videographer will be permitted in the sanctuary. 
  • The photographer/videographer will be counted as a participant.
  • The photographer/videographer may only photograph or record during the service.
  • There will be no photography or videography before or after the service. 
  • There will be no photography or videography in the sanctuary lobby or atrium. 
  • The photographer/videographer will not be able to access the sanctuary earlier than other participants.
  • The photographer/videographer will be permitted to take photos/videos outdoors on Ramat Shalom property before or after the service.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Rehearsals

For everyone’s safety, Bar/Bat Mitzvah rehearsals in the sanctuary will involve only the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the Rabbi and/or Cantor and the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Masks must be worn at all times and all social distancing rules detailed above will apply. Only one rehearsal in the Sanctuary Building per day will be permitted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. 

Adult Education, Meetings and other Gatherings

 At this time, the only gatherings taking place in the Sanctuary Building are small B’nai Mitzvah services and weddings. In the future, when adult education, meetings and other gatherings can take place in the Sanctuary Building, a member of Ramat Shalom’s Senior Staff (Rabbi, Cantor, Administrator or ECC Director) will need to be present and overseeing the gathering. The Senior Staff member will be responsible for keeping an attendance list that will be submitted to the office. Gatherings will be limited to the capacity detailed above. Please remember, chairs can’t be moved!

Participants at these gatherings will be expected to adhere to all social distancing and safety protocols detailed in this document. Please remember, no food may be served at these gatherings. Sorry, but no books or handouts will be provided. Only one gathering in the Sanctuary Building per day will be permitted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and must be scheduled in advance with the office.

Zoom will be available for most adult education, meetings, and other gatherings for those who want to attend virtually. 

Cleaning Protocols

The sanctuary building will be thoroughly cleaned after each use. We have researched and invested in high quality, environmentally safe cleaning supplies and equipment, including an electrostatic fogger. 

Please note that cleaning takes time. We will clean the building after each use. Because of this, we will have to limit the number of rehearsals, gatherings, and services in the Sanctuary Buildings on a daily basis. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your support during this challenging time. 

To assist in keeping our sanctuary building safe and clean, we ask that you do not move chairs in the sanctuary. When you leave a service or other gathering, please make sure you collect all your items and bring them with you. Please take advantage of the hand sanitizing stations we have installed. Wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom. And, most importantly, if you are not feeling well, please stay home and join us for services online.