As members of the COVID-19 Re-Opening Task Force, we reach out to you today to share further updates and plans regarding our congregation and where we are heading in the coming months. We have been closed to in-person gatherings for almost one year. The realities of the pandemic have brought challenges for all of us. Still, we are encouraged by all the creative ways we have maintained and grown our sacred community during this time, and we are optimistic as we head toward a phased re-opening of our congregation.
Jewish values have been the foundation of our decision-making throughout this time. The obligation to Pikuach Nefesh, the saving of a life, has been at the forefront of our minds. We also value HaK’lalah, inclusion. We based choices about gathering on our commitment to include as many as possible while also keeping one another and our broader community healthy. Underneath each of these values rests the core of who we are as a synagogue: a congregation committed to loving one another as we, ourselves, are loved. We have also weighed guidance from local public health experts and the Union for Reform Judaism in our assessments.
Directed by these values, we have kept the most vulnerable among us healthy and found ways to gather online. We have brought our staff back into the office for regular work hours. Our licensed Early Childhood Center has thrived, even under the COVID-19 guidelines of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. In many ways, we have already begun the process of reopening.
Pandemics by definition end, and with vaccinations now underway, the task force has been considering what it will take for us to enter a phased reopening for in-person gatherings for all segments of the congregation. To that question, we have identified the following standards:
A countywide COVID-19 test positivity rate of less than 1% and a new case count of fewer than ten individuals per 100,000.
A countywide vaccination rate of 70% for high-risk individuals, that is those who are 65+ or who have two comorbidities.
All members of our staff and adult members of their households are eligible for vaccination.
We are optimistic that our community is making progress on each of these standards, but we are not there yet. We expect that with infection rates in decline and increased vaccination rates continuing on pace for our broader community, we could meet these standards sometime during Spring 2021. Our task force continues to monitor how Hevreh’s membership is doing and will make recommendations to our Board of Trustees for re-opening based on our progress according to these standards.
Concurrently, the Hevreh staff is making preparations for everyone’s safe in-person return for Shabbat, holidays, learning, lifecycle events, and religious school at Hevreh over the Spring and Summer. We are eager to see you in person and to enter this next chapter together. We are already preparing for the High Holy Days, determining how we will be able to best offer our celebrations both in-person and remotely. We look forward to sharing more about how we will be able to come together soon enough.
Stay tuned, we will communicate more in the next two weeks about those plans and how you can participate in Hevreh both online and in person.
As always, if you have any questions, we invite you to reach out for further conversation. Hevreh remains a destination for Jewish life, learning, and community in the Berkshires. We look forward to all of us finding our way back to 270 State Road in the coming months.
The COVID-19 Re-Opening Task Force:
Rik Kabel, President
Rabbi Neil Hirsch
Rabbi Jodie Gordon
Kate Van Olst, Director of Operations
Ellen Marcus, ECC Director
Dr. Dan Cohen MD
Dave Halley, Chair of the House Committee
Dr. Heidi Katz, PhD, Co-Chair of the Ritual Committee
Dr. John Schreiber MD, MPH