Dear Congregation Agudat Achim family,
Last week at services Rabbi Eichenholtz spoke about our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Judaism places a premium on the actions we should take to save a life pikuach nefesh. In light of those values we want to take this moment to address communal concerns regarding COVID-19.
Classified by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic and prompting Massachusetts Governor Baker to declare a state of emergency, COVID-19 and its associated virus are real and present in our society. As an organization we want to take proactive and not reactive steps, we do so not because of any known exposure but to prevent it in the future. We join synagogues in our area and beyond in changing our behaviors.
As a whole community, not currently under any restrictions by our local or state departments of health, we are concentrating on reducing opportunities for transmission of the virus by people who may not know they are sick or are otherwise carriers. Our community gatherings are small enough to not be considered large gatherings and subject to closure, but we will be moving our services to the main sanctuary to facilitate social/physical distancing (a policy of maintaining 3-6 feet of distance between people). While the Torah will be taken out, if we have a minyan, there will be no procession through the congregation, and we ask anyone honored with an Aliyah to refrain from kissing the Torah. We encourage congregants to greet each other verbally and not physically (no handshakes, hugs and even elbow bumps).
We will continue to have oneg and kiddush, and all food will be individually packaged items. Ed continues to be vigilant in his preparation and cleaning high touch points of contact, doors, light switches etc. We are also setting up a sanitizing station and paper towels, by the front door for when people enter and leave our building and ask everyone to wash their hands for 20 seconds before entering the sanctuary and before taking food.
Debbie Fruchtman and Rabbi Eichenholtz are working on plans for religious school and closely tracking the actions of Nashoba, Leominster and Fitchburg School Districts we have not currently suspended classes and will be sending another update before the end of the day, based on evolving information from those three school districts. The family education event on March 22nd, will not be taking place and we are working on creating and distributing a home based activity for families to do together in its place.
Sarah Jane and Rabbi Eichenholtz will continue for the time-being to work in our office and keep our regular schedule but encourage contacting us through phone and e-mail. We know that this is a difficult time and we are here to hear from our community.
This is an ever evolving situation and we will be continuing this conversation at Monday’s board meeting and over the next weeks and months. We are using information from our partner Jewish organizations like Jewish Federation of Central Mass and the USCJ, as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through Mass.gov. We understand that every person in our congregation will be making their own choices about attending events or staying home and there are abundant ways that we can still connect to each other even if we are not in person. Rabbi Eichenholtz will be sending a resource list later today of live-streamed services and other Jewish opportunities online. Please reach out to Sarah Jane in the office and Rabbi Eichenholtz so we can continue to support each other at synagogue and at home.
Your CAA Admins