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TBE COVID-19 Guidelines

CURRENT COVID -19 POLICY (updated September, 2022)

Masks are optional at all events, indoor and outdoot.
COVID-19 Mitigation Guidelines

We encourage all those eligible to get their boosters as soon as possible.


Committee members: Anne Barash, MD, Adam Falik, MD, Benita Felmus, Gary Goldberg, MD, Harry Hirsch, Jennifer Kemp, RN, Wendy Klein, MD, Nathan Zasler, MD Selected references may be found at the end of this document.

Neither we nor any organization can guarantee individuals’ health and safety, and ultimately individuals must make individual decisions about whether to assume the risk of attending any synagogue events or programs and must be responsible for taking their own precautions.  Nonetheless, in accordance with the Jewish values below we have chosen to align with the World Health Organization’s May 12, 2020 guidelines that before reopening rates of positivity in testing should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14-days.  This guideline is more conservative than that published by the state of Virginia. 

Update for Spring 2021: As vaccines for the Covid-19 virus become readily available, and in accordance with the Jewish values outlined below, Temple Beth-El encourages our members to consider being vaccinated if at all possible.

As more data is made available, these guidelines may be evaluated and adjusted. The President in consultation with the Chair of the Health & Safety Committee may make adjustments to the details of this guidance from time to time.

Many organizations have developed value statements to guide their response to covid-19. Ours are adapted from Congregation Bet Haverim of Atlanta, GA, one of the earliest we referenced. Their full document can be found here.

Guiding Jewish values and teachings:

  • Pikuah nefesh / saving a life - safety of both staff and congregants, as well as the general public health. 
  • Inclusion - we strive for access to our offerings for all community members
  • Do not put a stumbling block before the blind - we recognize our hunger to be together, and are mindful of crafting environments that support safe individual behaviors. If we find that when we gather, individuals are unable to adhere to safety guidelines, we may need to adjust the guidelines or even return to virtual gatherings, removing the proverbial stumbling block.
  • Kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh - We are all responsible for one another.

We lean into savlanut, patience, to help us bear the burden of this time. 
We lean into chesed, loving kindness, as we seek out new and creative ways to show love to our neighbors and ourselves. 
We look for the good, hakarat hatov, even when it is harder to find than the afikomen.


Temple Beth-El is currently in Stage Gimmel as of April 8, 2021

Requirements for Stage Gimmel

Criteria: CDC Guidance in effect largely removing the mask recommendation for those who have been vaccinated.

• Service attendance in the sanctuary is limited to 150 people.
• Attendance in other spaces to be determined. See below for outdoor attendance.
• A family group is defined as persons who live together.

If at any time after transitioning to Stage Gimmel and the criteria for Stage Gimmel is not met, Stage Aleph guidelines should be used. To determine when we meet the criteria, we have elected to use the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data that is published here:  Select “Daily Dashboard” and then “Testing” under Covid-19 Cases & Testing Dashboards. Then use the pull-down menu to select Richmond or Henrico and “PCR only”.

Below shows data as of April 2, 2021 for Richmond:

Activity Guidelines

1. Temple Beth-El’s guidelines shall comply with those issued by the State of Virginia, specifically Executive Order Number 72 revised March 23, 2021 (in particular, see excerpt below from Section I.B.1.b and I.B.1.c) and any follow- on orders regarding public health safety. To the extent there is a conflict, the section in conflict below will be dis-regarded and the more restrictive condition shall be followed.

2. Vulnerable* people who have not been fully vaccinated and/or those who suspect exposure to COVID-19 should continue to follow Stage Aleph guidelines and attend virtually. To be inclusive, in-person programs continue to include an online component with attention given to use of technology to maximize the inclusion of both in-person and online participants.

3. “Fully vaccinated” or “vaccinated” in these Guidelines means having received the required dose(s) of the applicable vaccine and the recommended waiting period after complete vaccination having passed.

  1. Pre-registration: Temple Beth-El events require pre-registration on a first come, first served basis
    1. Exception: For services, preference will be given to members who are post B’nai Mitzvah so that the requirements of a minyan may be met and to best ensure compliance with activity guidelines.
    2. Exception: For a planned simcha (e.g. B’nai Mitzvah), the family hosting the event shall have preference over general community members (however, the Clergy may designate certain key roles to be performed by staff or qualified lay personnel).
    3. Normally this will be done online, however, small events (such as funerals) may be handled by other means as long as there is a way to ensure maximum capacity is not exceeded.
    4. Registration also assists with contact tracing (discussed separately).
  2. Outdoor events: The cap for outdoor gatherings for non-vaccinated people is up to 50 family groups as long as the space can accommodate social distancing guidelines.  The Clergy and certain designated individual staff / service leader(s) who have been fully vaccinated do not count towards this cap.
  3. Indoor events: The cap for indoor services in the sanctuary is per the table found in the “criteria” section above. Other spaces will be evaluated based on the type of event and size of the space.
  4. Masks. All attendees shall wear masks at all times with exception of a service leader actively engaged in religious ritual (e.g. leading the service) as exempted by Executive Order 72, Section II.E.7. Service leaders on the bimah may choose to remove their masks when leading the service (speaking, singing or chanting) as long as they are fully vaccinated and all others within the 20’ buffer area are fully vaccinated.
  5. Service leaders. Any adult leading the service or on the bimah shall be vaccinated or have undergone a 10-day quarantine period. Exceptions may be considered and may be approved by the President in consultation with the Chair, Health & Safety committee, particularly for B’nei Mitzvah children given the latest CDC guidance around lower risk for children.
  6.  Honorees. Aliyah and other honorees should not stand next to the service leader but rather maintain social distancing.
  7.  Singing indoors.
    • Due to the higher risk associated with singing indoors, to the maximum extent possible, attendees will not be within 20 feet (note: Executive Order 72 currently requires 10 feet) of a service leader when singing unless a plexiglass shield has been installed.
    • Attendees will be encouraged to participate in a muted way as opposed to full throated singing by the congregation.
    • To extent that religious ritual and the worship space requires, anyone required to be within 20 feet of a service leader who is singing should be vaccinated.
  8. Singing outdoors. Follow the indoor guidelines with exception of 10 feet distance.

  9. Seating. Family groups must practice 6’ minimum social distancing and be seated at least 6’ from other family groups.

  10. Cleaning and disinfection of frequently contacted surfaces shall be completed prior to and following any religious service.
  11. Hand cleaner / sanitization stations will be provided at each entrance and exit.
  12. Post-event socializing is discouraged.
  13. No food will be served at any event pending adoption of specific guidelines around COVID food safety.
  14. Communal object use will be limited to prayer books and other porous objects. Metal objects such as Torah Yads will not be shared. Tallit may not have been worn in the last 24 hours. A “used Tallit” rack will be designated.


TBE Self-Screening Guidelines

You should not attend an event unless you answer  NO to all 4 of following questions:

  1. Is your temperature 100.4 or greater?
  2. Have you had exposure to a known or suspected patient with COVID-19?
  3. Have you traveled in the last two weeks to a known area with rapid spread of the virus
  4. Have you had symptoms of infection or in the last 10 days: Fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of smell/taste?

All attendees should self-screen prior to attendance. Event organizer may check solely that attendees are aware of the questions; no additional screening will be done by TBE representatives.


* Definition of Vulnerable People: The Centers for Disease Control have defined who may be at risk for severe illness from this novel coronavirus. Based on current understanding, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions are considered vulnerable. These people who must be extra careful during these uncertain times include:

1. People 65 years of age or older
2. People living in a nursing home or long-term care facility
3. People with chronic lung disease (such as COPD) or moderate to severe asthma
4. People who have serious heart conditions
5. People who are immunocompromised (cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplant, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV, and prolonged use or steroids and other medications)
6. People with severe obesity (defined as a BMI of 40 or higher)
7. People with diabetes
8. People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
9. People with liver disease

For more details, please refer to the CDC website.

Excerpt from Virginia Executive Order 72, revised Feb 24, 2021, Section I.B.1.b and I.B.1.c:

b. Individuals attending religious services:
i. Practice proper physical distancing at all times. ii. Mark seating and common areas where attendees may congregate in six-foot increments to maintain physical distancing. iii. Ensure that any items used to distribute food or beverages either should be disposable or washed or cleaned between uses between individuals who are not Family members. iv. Conduct routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently-contacted surfaces prior to and following any religious service. v. Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 is permitted to participate in the religious service. vi. Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high risk individuals, and staying home if sick. vii. Wear masks over their nose and mouth in accordance with section II. viii.Post signage at the entrance of all indoor areas stating that individuals must wear a mask in accordance with this Order.

c. Parties attending religious services must be seated at least six feet from other parties.

Selected References

Oxford Academic: Effectiveness of 3 vs. 6 feet of physical distancing
CDC: When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated
CNN: Fully vaccinated people can visit unvaccinated family and friends, but one household at a time, CDC official says
Reuters: More than 40 diagnosed with COVID-19 after Frankfurt church service
Vox: 6 feet away isn’t enough. Covid-19 risk involves other dimensions, too.

Sat, April 20 2024 12 Nisan 5784