Cleveland Orthodox synagogues ready to open their (outside) doors – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on May 31, 2020

Orthodox synagogues in Greater Cleveland were set to begin meeting on site, some as early as erev Shavuos, which began the evening of May 28.

The Vaad HaRabbonim of Greater Cleveland issued a May 19 statement giving autonomy to synagogues in making decisions about when and how to reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have until now administered our guidance on a communal level, but at this time we have collectively deemed it appropriate, to move toward restoring the autonomy of our shuls, the Vaads statement to the community reads. We are blessed with many vibrant and responsible Kehillos within the greater Cleveland community, and beginning Shavuos, each Kehilla will be responsible for its own administration. Shuls will decide for themselves if to open, and the best way to open. A myriad of factors, including diverse constituencies and venue size, create different situations and call for different courses of action. It is in the interest of spirituality and safety that shuls tailor guidelines to meet their own complex needs.

Green Road Synagogue in Beachwood will open with an outdoor minyan on May 31.

The overarching principle is cautiously taking steps forward, Rabbi Benjamin Blau, spiritual leader of Green Road Synagogue, told the CJN.

People attending will need to sign up in advance, wear masks and bring their own siddurim and chairs, Blau said.

Blau said there will be limited seating, probably 15, in the first services, and his hope is to have space for both men and women at the first services.

Young Israel of Greater Cleveland in Beachwood will meet on site on May 28, with a minyan set up in an open-sided tent on the property, Rabbi Naphtali Burnstein said.

People intending to attend services on Shavuos at Young Israel were asked to sign up in advance, to bring their own prayer book, wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Were going to keep the services moving; yours truly is not planning on giving a sermon, said Burnstein, adding the tent arrangement is expected to last longer than Shavuos. G-d forbid theres a spike in things.

Recently, the Cleveland Vaad allowed yard minyanim to take place during the shutdown of synagogues, which began in mid-March, provided certain guidelines were adhered to, including social distancing, limited capacity, the prohibition of having children under bar mitzvah age in attendance, and the mandatory wearing of masks.

Shawn Fink, producer of Shalom America, which is a radio partner of the CJN, said he and his wife were on a Shabbos walk on the afternoon of May 23 and observed a yard minyan that appeared to violate guidelines.

My wife and I counted close to 30 people in attendance when we lost count, said Fink, who lives in University Heights. There were children that were present and it was also very clear from the street that there were many people not wearing masks.

Fink said he found the behavior of concern, both because of the potential health implications and for its impact on the profile of the Orthodox community in the eyes of others.

It sends a very poor message when gatherings like this are still not really encouraged, Fink said. Theres so much we dont know about this virus at this time, that we have to take the advice of doctors and public health officials.

In response to the decision by the Cleveland Vaad to allow synagogues autonomy in opening, 31 doctors signed a statement that has circulated on social media under the heading Message to the Orthodox Jewish Community of Cleveland.

The number of cases has thankfully been low, and we hope that with the right precautions and adherence to local guidance it will remain that way, the statement opens. Despite this return of activity, the pandemic is far from over. It is still a time of high risk and uncertainty. In relation to outdoor gatherings, it is important to keep in mind that masks only offer protection if everyone is wearing one properly, covering both ones nose and mouth. However, wearing a mask does not alone provide adequate protection and a minimum 6-foot distance must be maintained at all times.

Dr. Daniel Fleksher, who practices internal medicine at University Hospitals in Cleveland and signed the letter, said the group showed a draft of the letter to the Cleveland Vaad prior to publicizing it.

Since it was being decentralized, we felt it was important to find a way to send a message to the community, he said. Theres no 100% safe way to move indoors and have minyanim.

Burnstein said he took part in a yard minyan at a neighbors house that adhered to the guidelines, and that he checked on one such minyan that was reported as being in violation of the guidelines. That host, he said, told him that people were masked and that he had masks that he was ready to offer to anyone needing one.

I really believe that the rules were mostly followed, said Burnstein, adding that in his experience, Its actually worked out very well.

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Cleveland Orthodox synagogues ready to open their (outside) doors - Cleveland Jewish News

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