Read the OU and RCA’s COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance here.
March 2021 Update: Opening Up
Weekly Morning Services Begin on Pesach, Zeman Cheiruteinu (The Time of Our Freedom!)
Santa Fe went “green” last week, according to the NM Department of Health. What does this mean? Thank G-d, COVID cases have decreased here significantly. The rate of transmission in our community (Santa Fe County) has diminished back to the low levels we saw at the beginning of last Fall. Plus, we are hearing the wonderful news that many congregants and friends are beginning to get vaccinated!
We aren’t out of the woods yet. Highly infectious new variants, which might even be more virulent, are contributing to another spike in Europe. The USA is likely a few weeks behind.
So, we must remain vigilant. We must get vaccinated. And we must continue to practice all of those preventive behaviors that we have learned in the past year, so those numbers stay down, even if we have been vaccinated!
Two things to remember about vaccines:
- we are not fully immunized until a couple of weeks after the last dose of our vaccine (consult vaccine guidelines for more info)
- it is still possible to contract and transmit coronavirus after being fully vaccinated. These vaccines’ main function is to prevent severe COVID in ourselves, but scientists are still studying how much the vaccines prevent coronavirus transmission and infection.
In fact, we cannot let our guard down until national (and worldwide!) cases are low enough, due to both vaccination rates and our individual behavior, that our healthcare systems can manage COVID cases without sacrificing the level of medical care that our communities need.
Opening Up @ KBR
Even though we can clearly see that the pandemic continues to be a serious international issue, our community needs to be able to daven, to read the Torah, to observe the cycle of the Jewish year. Together.
Santa Fe has returned to a level of coronavirus transmission rates similar to that of last September, when we held services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In addition, we all have learned how to properly social distance and follow COVID safety protocols. And finally, more and more of us are vaccinated or are in the middle of that process.
We are therefore cautiously excited to be able to begin holding weekly services again. We will be following state guidelines, requirements, and protocols. We will require pre-registration and all attendees must be masked (even if you are vaccinated). We will be outdoors for the present (we will cancel in case of inclement weather).
Starting on the first day of Pesach, Sunday, March 28, we will have the first of what we hope will be weekly Shabbat & Holiday services. This is particularly appropriate as we celebrate the “Time of our Freedom,” Zman Cheiruteinu, another name for Passover. Let’s hope that we will be able to continue coming together weekly, following the holiday.
What Will Make Us Shut Back Down?
Lack of compliance.
Anyone who has not registered for services (and received a confirmation), will have to be be asked to leave. We require registration in order to ensure that all attendees have accepted and will follow the same COVID safety protocols. Drop-ins have not committed to these standards, and therefore make it impossible for everyone else to be confident in the safety of our services. If drop-ins become a regular problem, we will discontinue services, for everyone’s health and safety. It is really, truly unpleasant to have to turn away a congregant from services due to lack of registration. Please, register promptly (before the deadlines), and contact us if you haven’t gotten a confirmation regarding your registration.
Santa Fe’s COVID status moves to “Yellow” or “Red.”
If we see that coronavirus transmission has again increased in our community, G-d forbid, then we will reevaluate our ability to hold services.
If we cannot get a minyan.
We cannot justify the risks of a public gathering if it does not fulfill the Torah obligation of communal davening. For this reason, if we do not have a minyan pre-registered by Wednesday, we will cancel services for that week.
It’s wonderful that we can attempt to resume some aspects of “normalcy.” To anyone who doesn’t yet feel ready to attend services: we support your decision about how best to protect your own health.
I know I will never again take for granted our ability to gather together for prayer and learning, to share delicious Shabbat and festive kiddushes and meals, to see each other’s warm smiles, to hold each other’s babies, to celebrate each other’s simchas, to share in each other’s tragedies — generally, to do all the things together that make up a vibrant Jewish community. I’m looking forward to the day that we regain all of that.
In the meantime, I wish everyone a sweet, special Pesach. Passover celebrates our release from bondage to that cruel ruler, Pharaoh, in order for us to be free — specifically, free to commit ourselves, as a nation, to the service of our Creator. Perhaps, as we yet again quietly, privately celebrate this season of liberty, each of us can find some ways to transcend the barriers of lockdown and constraint, and refocus or repurpose ourselves to better serve HaShem, our G-d, as well as our fellow human.
September 2020 Update
Dear KBR Community,
Every year, I strive to approach the leadup to Rosh HaShanah with fear and trepidation. The Day of Judgment requires no less than introspection and honest assessment of ourselves, and a commitment (or recommitment) to working on ourselves and our relationships. That’s a very important thing for us to be doing at this time of year — every year — as we approach these Yomim Noraim, Days of Awe.
However, this year, we naturally find ourselves in a more serious state of contemplation. Every interpersonal interaction I experience — be it a Zoom violin lesson with a young child, a Zoom family gathering, or an in-person masked interaction at a grocery store or doctor visit — has an importance, a weightiness, that I haven’t experienced at any previous period in my life. In person, I am constantly focused on minimizing my own risk plus ensuring my actions help my fellow citizens feel safer and protected. On Zoom, I am constantly analyzing and thinking about whether my intentions and words are coming across fully and successfully over spotty internet, low-resolution, distractions, and two dimensions. In either case, with a covered face or a face on a screen, we have to be extra vigilant to make sure that we are expressing ourselves, and connecting with each other, as we intended.
I believe this is actually an opportunity: we can apply these interpersonal challenges, which we each are experiencing in our own unique ways, to our relationship with HaShem. We can ask, how am I fine-tuning my relationship with my Creator? Am I working to develop myself so that I can better connect spiritually? So that I can better achieve my potential and accomplish my job in this world? I would encourage everyone, as we are becoming so hyper-attuned to our interactions in this bizarre and troubled time, that we can use this as an opportunity to refine our spiritual side, and perhaps through that, become better at being able to bring some measure of connection and love into the world in this time of strife, unrest, and concern.
Secondly, I am pleased to announce that the Governor has stated that case levels and infection rates have reached a point that justifies relaxing some proscriptions and restrictions for Houses of Worship. Unless something dramatically changes, Rabbi Kelman will be able to lead abbreviated Rosh HaShanah services in the parking lot at KBR. Services will run promptly from 9-11am on both days of Rosh HaShanah, Saturday and Sunday, 9/19-20. We are employing a serious and aggressive protocol to mitigate disease transmission risk.
Registration and acceptance of our policies is required for attendance. Additionally, I and the rabbi both strongly urge anyone who feels unsafe or at high risk to remember that prioritizing one’s own health is absolutely essential. If you are such an individual, you should rest assured that praying at home is entirely appropriate, even on these very special holy days. We encourage you to consult with a medical professional if you have any questions about the proper course of action for yourself.
If you would like to register for services, please click here for the link. You must check every box indicating your acceptance of our protocols for services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I wish that you all should be written and sealed for the good, for sweetness, for love, for blessing, for health, and for life this Rosh Hashanah. I hope we will all see each other and the redemption in the coming year.
Yours in trepidation and hope,
August 2020 Update
Dear Kol BeRamah community,
It has been nearly five months since we had to close our shul down for in-person services and events. Way back in mid-March, we rapidly transitioned to online learning via Zoom. Since then, our Rabbi and Rabinessa have been working tirelessly to connect and reach community members. Rabbi Kelman teaches at least one class every single day except Shabbos, and sometimes 3 or more! Topics have ranged from how to run your own Seder, to halachic aspects of the Titanic disaster, to vegan and vegetarianism in the Torah; from Hebrew calligraphy to a rollicking kids’ class (I couldn’t tear myself away from all the terribly hilarious puns!) to Talmudic discussions.
Rabbi Kelman continues to bring his signature warmth to every one of those classes. And the Rabinessa is cooking up a storm, as always, with a Jewish cooking, history & cuisine class. In addition, she is constantly reaching out to everyone with her delicious Shabbos treats, and has teamed with the Food Depot, along with some amazing KBR volunteers, to help needy congregants access kosher food during these challenging times. At the congregational level, our Passover food store was a great success, and we continue to stock kosher meat and cheese for sale at Kol BeRamah (with more coming in before Rosh HaShanah). If you are interested, please contact us and we will be happy to make a socially-distanced appointment.
However, the end of Covid is not in sight. Cases are, devastatingly, going up in New Mexico and throughout the country. We have had the opportunity to join a video call with Dr. Fauci himself, as he addressed Orthodox synagogue leadership across the country. In addition, Rabbi Kelman is constantly in communication with rabbinic leaders — national and international halachic authorities — as well as public health experts. The Rabbi’s decision, supported by our Board, is that, at this time, opening up our shul is an unjustified public health risk, and would potentially endanger our precious community members.
Thank G-d, I have not yet heard of anyone who attends Kol BeRamah having gotten COVID. I would like it to stay that way. We are continually evaluating the situation and considering various options for services and programs, both virtual and — as soon as appropriate — in person. Above all, we are following the Torah precept of “Venishmartem M’od” (guarding our health proactively and zealously). We will keep the community informed as things change; we welcome your thoughts, questions, and feedback.
Finally, I would like to ask our community to consider a few things:
- Please take your health seriously, and also the health of others. Wear masks. Wash your hands. Avoid unnecessary exposures and risks. Minimize outings that would put you in higher-risk settings. Ask us for help with groceries or other items, if you don’t feel safe going out. (We have a group of healthy volunteers that are happy to pick up groceries or drop off items, as needed, while taking strict health precautions for themselves and you.) Consider carefully whether or not you really need to go out: which activities are truly necessary? We have cancelled classes and services, not because they are “non-essential,” but because we are obligated to prioritize our own and our community’s health and safety. Our physical health is necessary for our spiritual health. We encourage you to extend that tenet and guard yourself with vigilance until the risk passes.
- Our shul is likely going to be closed for in-person services for a while, but we treasure our wonderful, warm community, and want to make sure that everyone maintains their connection to their Judaism and their friends. I encourage you to try out a Zoom class! In the coming days, we will be finalizing our Rosh Hashanah schedule. We value your input on what you need to help you get the most out of the Fall Holidays — please email us or call the Rabbi with your concerns or thoughts.
- Please make an extra effort to support this year’s membership campaign. We have taken steps to reduce unnecessary costs, yet our synagogue still faces strong financial pressures. At the same time, many of our regular fundraising activities are not happening. We need your support of our wonderful programming and Rabbi, especially during this difficult time. Every member who renews or joins Friends of KBR will receive a beautiful siddur and a high-quality shofar. And, we encourage you join us for Steve Ovitsky’s class on August 20, which will teach the basics of how to blow a shofar, and to perform the mitzvah on Rosh HaShanah.
- Minyanim are communal activities, and, in times of COVID, have communal consequences. As the Rabbi has determined for our community that public services are not currently appropriate, we ask that if you wish to observe a loved-one’s Yahrzeit, you do so with a special Zoom learning session (we can set it up for you). Alternatively, we can chant the “Kel Maleh” prayer for your loved one on the Saturday night before the Yahrzeit, during our weekly Zoom Havdalah ceremony. Not only are these both time-honored ways to mark the anniversary of a loved one’s passing, but you will be protecting your community as we join with you in your mitzvah.
Thank you so much for your support — I miss you all, and truly hope it is not too long until we can all celebrate Shabbat, holidays, and joyful occasions together!
Naomi Israel, President