Policy for COVID-19 reopening

At Agudas Achim and in Judaism, we believe in safety first and Pikuach Nefesh, “saving a life.” These last few months have been challenging and we miss gathering with our community. Although the State of Illinois has moved into Phase Four and allowed houses of worship to open earlier, at that time it was not believed that conditions warranted Agudas Achim to open and resume daily minyan, Shabbat services or other activities in the building.

Numerous discussions have taken place on zoom on how to move forward to ensure that our spiritual home is operating in a safe way. Information from medical experts, Torah scholars, other communities have provided advice that has been reviewed and combined to create policy for our synagogue community. The Temple has outlined Reopening Policies and Procedures that we will also follow. We have restored and cleaned the kosher kitchen thoroughly since the vandalism, but there will be no kiddush served after a Shabbat or Holiday service until it is safer to do so.  We have also prepared the social hall for worship with social distancing of 10 feet which is the recommendation if chanting occurs and the portable ark has been moved into the large social hall. We are physically ready to begin the community policy of Stage One and return to the synagogue for worship, but there are other criteria to consider.

Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to resume for a daily minyan. We would like to resume Shabbat services, but it will require reservations and a commitment of a minyan.

The policy for Stage One Reopening will be:

  1. No more than 10 people, reservations will be mandatory. We must be respectful of each other and commit to showing up. Members with lifecycle events or saying kaddish will have priority.
  2. No children under age 13. If you fall in the risk category of over age 65 and have co-morbidities, please consult your physician.
  3. An attendee list will be kept for all gatherings and submitted to the office. We will use a tab system so no writing will be required. The Temple will have access to the attendance list for monitoring for COVID risk.
  4. Please maintain social distancing of 6 feet while entering and while in the building.
  5. Restrict personal items and if you have a coat, it must remain with you at this time because the coat room is closed.
  6. Stop at the door and show your face to allow the trained Greeter to identify you and to ask you questions about travel, etc. The Greeter will provide you with hand sanitizer and check your temperature. ALL attendees will have on a face mask that is worn properly upon entering the building and the entire time while in the building.
  7. Please follow signs for entering and exiting. No kissing of ritual objects. People need to bring their own tallis, which may be stored in cubbies in the alcove but not in the Chapel. The Torah will be handled by one person only. Aliyahs will be done with respect to social distancing.
  8. No kiddush or eating in the building.
  9. Small single use bottles of water will be available, but must be disposed of by the user in a proper trash container.
  10. Use of the bathroom only if necessary and only one person at a time with social distancing entering and exiting.
Stage One outlines that we will only meet if we have a commitment of a minyan of ten men. The Temple has given us permission to meet indoors, although the safest area would be outside. The hope is to continually advance in Stages as experts advise it is safe to do so and while we do not want to exclude anyone, the plan is for a slow, safe and limited opening. We may proceed to Stage Two or Three as the risk decreases in Peoria County, and we demonstrate compliance with the policy set forth, but we may also have to be prepared to go back a Stage if risk increases.

We do not have an exact date to begin Shabbat Services because it is dependent on the commitment of 10 men for a minyan. It is a challenging time, and many in our congregation are in the risk group. Also the Peoria Charter Bus is not providing service from Chicago until later in August for Rabbi Arsers to return but I hope everyone has enjoyed phone calls and checked out the website for Rabbi Arsers Drasha under the tab Rabbi’s Corner.

Services will be shortened in Stage One. Please daven Shacharit at home. The Greeter will arrive at 10 a.m. to prepare for the opening of the building. No admission until 10:15 am We will begin with the reading of the Torah at 10:30 a.m, and if time allows it will be followed with Musaf. It is important at this early Stage to limit the total time of indoor group exposure.  Also, if people that make a reservation are not punctual, and we are not successful gathering a minyan by 10:10, the greeter will not allow admittance and the minyan will be considered unsuccessful. If this occurs more than twice by that individual, their reservations will lose priority over others. All reservations must be received by the Thursday before Shabbat, and if we do not receive enough reservations to make a minyan, the service will be cancelled on Friday morning and members that made a reservation will be notified.

Communication and respect are essential. After a service, the Greeter will be responsible to follow the disinfecting protocols according to the Temple’s policy on all touch surfaces. There will be no visiting indoors after the service.

Your safety and health are a priority. A potential consequence if we cannot follow the rules set forth above may result in a prolonged closure or not advancing to another Stage. These are difficult times and everyone has different opinions about the current situation, but it’s important to remain united for the safety of the community.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me and I would be happy to listen, discuss and answer any questions you may have. We are also hoping that if the risk to our community decreases we will have the opportunity to gather, in a socially distanced way, for the High Holidays.



LaDona W Fishkin

President, Agudas Achim

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