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Please visit our Online Services and COVID-19 pages for current info. We will mark the end of the COVID emergency with the "Hashiveinu" community event on Sunday morning, August 8.

COVID-19 Update

For the latest messages regarding Shearith Israel and the COVID-19 pandemic, please see below. All services and programs continue to be held via Zoom. Visit the Calendar page for programming details. To participate in member outreach or request support, click the appropriate button below.

Virtual Services @ CSI - Zoom Links & Info

Assistance Form: Offer or Request Help


 

Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 16 Sivan 5781

הֲשִׁיבֵ֨נוּ יְי ׀ אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ וְֽנָשׁ֔וּבָה חַדֵּ֥שׁ יָמֵ֖ינוּ כְּקֶֽדֶם׃  

Cause us to return to you, Adonai, and we will return; Renew our days as of old! 
(Lamentations)

Over a year ago, we were all reminded that we are always walking without knowledge of what the future holds. All our plans were upended. I remember, at the beginning, all the conversations that tried to get our minds around how long this might last. Maybe we could imagine that a crisis would change Pesach, but what about the High Holidays? Can this pandemic really last that long? Gradually, we all adjusted to the pandemic world. Little by little, we adapted to a world defined by constant emergency. We got used to covering our mouths and noses, social distancing, and became experts at knowing when to mute and unmute in Zoom meetings.  

With deep gratitude to God and the scientists who worked day and night to develop safe and effective vaccines, we are able to plan for a future that brings back what we’ve missed during this time, bringing all that we learned with us. 

The new CDC guidelines specifically state that it is safe for fully vaccinated individuals to attend full capacity worship services without additional protective measures such as face masks and social distancing. Our medical committee confirms that these findings are scientifically sound. The Shearith Israel Board considered this guidance and adopted new protocols for our congregation.  

  • Masks and social distancing are optional for fully vaccinated members and guests
  • Masks are required for unvaccinated members and guests, including children not yet eligible for vaccination
  • Services will continue to be on Zoom until August 7th and then live-streamed for Shabbat and Holidays
  • The sanctuary will be used at full capacity, so registration is no longer required to attend services
  • There will be a designated area of the congregation that will be reserved for social distancing. In this section, masking will be required for everyone. 
  • As with all COVID-related policies, we will continue to monitor public health direction and make decisions with the support of our medical committee as needed

At the heart of these protocols is our belief that we are a community that loves, trusts, and respects one another as we all transition to the next chapter of our community together. As we have all year, we will continue to update these protocols as we learn more. Please do not hesitate to contact the office(404.873.1743) or Rabbi Kaiman if you have any questions about these new protocols

We all know that we’re moving forward at different paces, and we’ll need to have patience, compassion, and understanding. There are many reasons why a person will choose to continue practicing social distancing and face covering in our sacred spaces. Some of your Shearith Israel family will wear masks in solidarity with their children who are not yet eligible for vaccination. Some of your CSI family will wear masks because they feel it protects them and others they love.  Some of your CSI family will wear masks because they are medically ineligible for a vaccine. Some of your CSI family will wear masks because they have yet to receive the vaccine.  

In all these cases and in all the cases that a CSI family member chooses to gather without masks and social distancing, we’re going to trust and extend compassionate understanding to one another throughout this transition time. 

Over the next 10+ weeks, it’s our hope, prayer, and expectation that Covid-19 continues to decrease in the Atlanta area. CSI will continue to provide hybrid services with Zoom for all of our prayer offerings during this transition time.

A Ritual To Mark Our Communal Transition:

August 8th is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the High Holiday season, marking one month before Rosh Hashanah. On this day, we are planning a ritual to mark the end of the emergency for the Shearith Israel community. It’s my hope that we all feel ready, and I’ll lovingly understand if it takes some of us longer.

The ritual will create intentional space for us to mourn all that we lost, and celebrate all that we learned. Additionally, it will mark the official transition away from interactive video-conferencing technology on Shabbat to a model of Live-Streaming our sanctuary service. Participants at home will still be able to see and hear all that happens in the CSI sanctuary from anywhere in the world, but we will no longer be able to interact during the service. We also intend that this ritual will mark a return to safely enjoying meals together with outdoor eating space.   

With appreciation to the thousands of people around the world who are working to beat this virus, and deep gratitude to the leaders of CSI who are keeping us together and supported, and unending gratitude to God for giving us sacred values and traditions that bind us together in love, 

Rabbi Ari Kaiman


 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 16 Iyar 5781

I am writing to share another update on the changing status of our in-person prayer experiences as a greater proportion of the congregation is vaccinated and we learn more about the nature of Covid-19.   

With transmission levels falling in the US, but still at what is considered a high level, we are in the position to cautiously make sensible changes without yet fully reopening. The clearest way for us all to return together is for every one of us to receive a vaccine as soon as it is available to us. As of right now, we have heard directly from about 60% of the eligible members on our CSI roster. Every single person we reach reports already receiving the vaccination, so I have reason to believe that our percentage of vaccinated congregants is much higher. If you haven’t yet reported your status yet, reporting now using this form helps us all feel safer together at shul. If anyone is hesitant and would like to speak to an expert from our medical committee, or just be heard by me, we would be happy to make the connection. 

Daily Minyan, Friday Night and Saturday Services

  • Congregants and community members are now able to come to the Shearith Israel sanctuary for all regular services beginning tomorrow morning, Thursday, April 29.
  • Instructions will be on the table on the Bima for using the lights in the sanctuary, the computer, and television.  

    — At this time, we are continuing “hybrid” services, and zoom participants are considered fully present in the minyan.  
    —  Participants in the sanctuary will count toward the minyan even if they are not visible on camera. 
  • Participants in the sanctuary should remain masked and distant from one another, following CDC guidance..  
  • Pre-registration is not required for these services.  

Shabbat Morning - Sanctuary Service

  • We are increasing the maximum capacity of the sanctuary to 55participants on non-B’nai Mitzvah Shabbatot and Yom Tov, starting May 17 - 18 for Shavuot.  
  • At this time, pre-registration is required for appropriate social distancing preparation and we encourage anyone who wishes to register to do so at this link

Shabbat Morning - Outdoor Minyan Ohalecha

  • Congregants under their tents are now permitted to daven unmasked, distanced and outdoors. 
  • Congregants should mask if choosing to visit in close proximity to one another.  
  • Pre-registration is still required via this link.

Our leadership is continually evaluating our practices, listening to our congregants, and attempting to anticipate the current best practices for the majority of our community. I recognize that we will move too slowly for some, and too quickly for others. I’m so proud of how this community has held together and supported one another through this pandemic.  

In this next phase, I encourage you to participate in all our offerings if you are comfortable to do so. Please, do not worry about staying home just to make room for someone else. Shearith Israel is here for you, and we thankfully have more than enough space for most situations.  

While we have many more steps to go before we are through this pandemic, I’m so grateful we are walking through it together.  

With love,

Rabbi Ari Kaiman


​​​​​​​

Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 3 Kislev 5781

CSI Covid-19 Update - Avodah (Shabbat Prayer)

I sometimes wish that prayers alone would bring about the change we all wish to see. Despite our fervent prayers for the end of this pandemic, it seems that we are entering the worst phase of its spread so far.  

Our principles have not changed, we are still doing everything we can to prioritize life and do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.  What has changed is our knowledge of how to mitigate the degree of risk if we are scrupulous in following the guidelines of our medical team. Because of their thoughtful advice, we have begun to add more experiences of in-person community to our offerings.  

All of these offerings are conditional about the current state of spread in our  neighborhood. The country is experiencing exponential growth of the disease right now, and if we are not vigilant, we will likely need to pull back on these offerings.

  • Minyan Ohalecha: A talented team of lay-leaders are organizing in-person, outdoor Shabbat morning services every week. This past Shabbat was beautiful, and a very successful experience. Sign-ups are on our website each week. 
  • Hybrid Indoor Shabbat morning services: Our B’nai Mitzvah services have demonstrated that we are capable of safely distancing and including both our Zoom and in-person participants equally. We will be potentially expanding access to these types of services for different kinds of Shabbatot in the future.
  • Minyan Shelanu: Ori Salzberg is back on Shabbat mornings with an outdoor, social-distanced Minyan for our families. Sign up here for a musical, engaging service experience for families with school-age-children. 
  • Hybrid Outdoor Parking Lot Havdalah: Each week as darkness descends, a small group has gathered in the parking lot to say Maariv and Havdallah to welcome the work week.

We all need prayer in our lives. Prayer is good for the soul, and if we follow appropriate guidelines and respect each other’s risk tolerances, then prayer could even be good for our health.  

In gratitude,

Rabbi Ari 


 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020 - 16 Tammuz 5780

The approaching three weeks leading to Tisha b’Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, can perhaps give perspective on the challenges we face as Jews in this time of COVID-19.  Jewish life was uprooted with the destruction of the Beit ha’Mikdash and our people were scattered from Eretz Yisrael into the diaspora.  The rabbis, faced with loss of The Temple, the place essential to Jewish practice at the time, re-envisioned Judaism, placing Torah study at the center of religious life.  If the rabbis could remake Judaism in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, surely, we can adapt to the challenges of minimizing the spread of this lethal virus.  

Shearith Israel scrambled in March to continue prayer, education, social, charitable and pastoral missions without a physical building in which we could gather.  Following the halachic (Judaic law) reasoning of the rabbis of the Rabbinical Assembly, that in this extraordinary moment of she’at ha’dehak (dire circumstances), it was deemed appropriate in order to safeguard life (pikuah nefesh), to move prayer services online.  We’ve held morning and evening services online every day since, and will continue to do so until we are able to gather safely again.  Machaneh Shai and Minyan Shelanu programming for children and adult programs have moved online as well.  Ahavat Chinam charitable initiatives, the Chesed Committee and Chevra Kadisha continue their good and sacred work, modified to reflect the reality of social distancing.  Rabbi Kaiman continues to officiate at life events and to counsel members, and Rabbinic Intern Sammy Rosenbaum has added new responsibilities as well as filling in during Rabbi Kaiman’s family vacation this month.  The staff, under the leadership of Executive Director, Jodi Salomon, has remained dedicated and productive.  None of this is the same: not everyone is comfortable online; not everything can be done as well online; Internet access is an issue.  Yet, there have been some silver linings – surprise nuggets that will lead to more permanent innovations.  

Almost immediately after closing our campus, we began discussions of when and how to reopen.  A Medical Task Force composed of three infectious disease physicians and scientists was appointed to advise leadership about the conditions necessary for reopening and procedures that will support the best health outcomes when we do reopen.  Based on their expert advice, in May the Board of Trustees adopted a Plan for Reopening Shearith Israel (which was amended in June).  The plan, which has already been widely shared, includes five phases, moving from extremely limited access to our campus, to a gradual re-opening as conditions permit.  Each phase of the plan places a premium on safe health practices, as well as recognition that not everyone will be able to attend in person for some time.  The plan can be reviewed at: CSI Reopening Plan 2020.

A High Holiday Task Force, co-led by Robbie Medwed and Rabbinic Intern Sammy Rosenbaum has recommended primarily online prayer services and study, supplemented by a series of activities to take place in homes and neighborhood outdoor settings.  Some of the ideas in the report are quite innovative, including Shofar blasts in parks, Tashlich Docent Tours, Yizkor Memory Circles, and “Chag-In-A-Box” kits to support your home experience.  High Holidays 5781 will be different than past years; we are working so that at least some of the differences will be the basis of fond memories.

One unavoidable consequence of the COVID crisis has been our inability to move forward with many of the initiatives laid out in our Strategic Plan, adopted in February.  The pillars of the Plan in organizational health, gemilut hasadim (acts of loving kindness), avodah (prayer), Torah (education) and facilities, set out a rich agenda for the years ahead.  The Rabbi and Board are laying the groundwork now so that when the constraints of COVID are behind us, we can smoothly move forward with the plan’s objectives. 
    
The challenges of COVID are not as earth-shattering as destruction of the Temple, but they have nonetheless been substantial.  With children out of school and camp, college students unsure of their plans for the coming semester, salary reductions and job losses, our inability to travel or to visit family members in the hospital or in assisted living facilities, cabin fever and general unease about what lies ahead, we know that some of you may need a helping hand.  Our fervent prayer is that the shul and its members have been of assistance and comfort to you during these difficult months, but please, if there is anything else that our kehillah can do for you, please let us know.

We look forward to the time when we can gather again safely and raise our voices together in worship.   

B’shalom,

Faith Levy, President
Baruch Stiftel, Chair, Religious Life Committee
Rabbi Ari Kaiman

 

 

Monday, May 4, 2020 - 10 Iyar 5780

 
Shalom,
 

We are learning more all the time about how the novel coronavirus is spreading and the wide-ranging severity of the COVID-19 disease. The longer this goes, the more we miss one another's presence.

The leadership and staff of Shearith Israel are closely consulting with a very talented team of medical professionals who have access to the very latest knowledge and are part of the team shaping national guidance. As we work to develop CSI’s plan moving forward, we want to hear from you regarding your thoughts and concerns.

We are also coordinating with the city of Atlanta. Rabbi Kaiman is one of two representatives of the faith community sitting on the Mayor’s advisory committee for reopening Atlanta.

Together, we are creating a framework to guide our decision making as we move through the challenges ahead. The consensus is that we are not returning to the old "normal" anytime soon. We are moving forward to a new normal, guided by our value of protecting life and the advice of CSI's community of epidemiological and infectious disease experts. 

In the coming days and weeks, you can expect to hear more from us, and we want to hear from you too. Please email rabbikaiman@shearithisael.com to share your thoughts. 

With the blessings of health, and togetherness,

Ari Kaiman                     Jodi Salomon                       Faith Levy
Rabbi                             Executive Director                President 
 

 

Monday, March 16, 2020 - 20 Adar 5780

 

OUR VALUES:

Nothing is more important to us than human life. The threat of COVID-19 has already upended all our lives, and many members of the Shearith Israel community are either highly vulnerable, or are directly connected to those who are highly vulnerable to this virus.   

This illness is a proof of how our bodies and souls are more intertwined than we often realize.  There is only one way we can adequately protect all those connected to our community. 

Rabbi Kaiman and Jodi Salomon, Executive Director, in consultation with our leadership at Shearith Israel, the Rabbinical Assembly, USCJ, and experts at the CDC working on COVID-19, have some updated guidelines for the next phase of combatting this illness. 

As of today, the CDC is recommending that there be no gatherings over 50 people.

PROGRAMS & SERVICES:

Until further notice, Congregation Shearith Israel is suspending all in-person services and programs.

On Shabbat mornings with B'nai Mitzvah, close family of the B'nai Mitzvah, prayer leaders, and Torah readers will constitute a small minyan.  Others are asked not to attend these services in person. We are quickly working to enable livestreaming capabilties for these services.  

Many Conservative congregations are considering this a sha'at d'chak - a time that is a particular stress. One of Rabbi Kaiman's teachers in Jewish law, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, holds by this opinion. This legal category permits certain practices that would be normally be forbidden. The relevant example is forming and participating in virtual minyanim. 

Until we finalize our technology and plans in this matter, this is a link to many congregations that provide streaming of their services. I hope that Shearith is added to this list soon.

We are working to develop new ways to connect you to meaningful living through Judaism from afar. The challenges presented by this illness are an opportunity for us to innovate our prayer and study practice.  

MACHANEH SHAI & CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING:

Machaneh Shai, MASA, Kadima, USY, and other programming for children is included in our suspension of programming.  Nancy Gorod is working diligently with our teachers and staff to provide online learning.

IN-PERSON MEETINGS WITH CSI STAFF AND "DROP-INS":

All in-person meetings with staff should be conducted virtually, either by phone or video-conferencing software. The building is closed to drop-in appointments.  

SPIRITUAL CONNECTION IS POSSIBLE DURING ISOLATION:

We can still support one another

We are heartened by the many individuals and families who have reached out to offer support to one another. Rabbi Kaiman is working on a plan to help us connect to one another during this challenging time. Please reach out and call the synagogue or Rabbi on his mobile phone if you'd like to speak or have something to offer. We're all bound up in this together, and we'll all be stronger and better on the other side.

With Abundant Love,

Rabbi Ari Kaiman, Jodi Salomon, Faith Levy, and the leadership of CSI

Mon, June 21 2021 11 Tammuz 5781