The Health & Safety Committee (formerly the Reopening Committee) is committed to keeping you informed, answering your questions as they arise and listening to your comments and feedback. Please visit this page often as we will be regularly posting updates, additional FAQs and useful resources.
Throughout this journey, our motto has been, “Go Safe” and we have been guided by the Jewish value Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh B’Zeh/ Every Jewish person is Responsible One for the Other. It is important to understand that the precautions we are taking limit the risk of spreading the virus to others. Anshe Emet, like any other place of worship, cannot eliminate the risk of transmission entirely. While the Health & Safety Committee is focused on what is in the best health and safety interests of the congregation, we must also rely on each person to follow all guidelines and make decisions that limit the risks to themselves, their families, and others. Individuals should assess their own risk level based on a variety of factors such as age, physical condition, ability to wear a mask for long periods of time, work environment (are you exposed to high risk at work?) and out-of-state travel.
New COVID Restrictions:
Give Thanks & Stay Safe
Friday, November 13, 2020
Thanksgiving is almost upon us. The first Thanksgiving was modeled on Sukkot: a harvest celebration of gratitude. The Jewish people have always placed a premium on giving thanks. As Psalm 136 says: הוֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי-טוֹב: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ. “Give thanks to God, for God’s kindness is everlasting.”
As with most everything this year, Thanksgiving will be different than in the past. Our tables will be smaller, our gatherings sparser, and our family more distant. But we have no less need to be thankful: we are thankful for our health, thankful for our perseverance, and thankful for our community. We at Anshe Emet, are grateful for you: our precious synagogue family. Together we have been so creative, so connected, and so resilient.
As grateful as we are, the pandemic calls on us to back up that gratitude with action. We need to be cautious; we need to follow the guidelines put in place by government authorities; and, we need to follow the wisdom and guidance of the experts.
We are now in the middle of a major surge in cases and community spread of coronavirus. Across the country, we are seeing well over 130,000 cases a day and, here in the Chicago area, our test positivity rate is over 14% – with some zip codes over 20 percent. (Anything over 5% is considered indicative of widespread community transmission.) We are also seeing more cases in our area than we saw during the spring peak.
In response, Mayor Lightfoot has put in place a new stay-at-home advisory effective Monday, November 16, to help get things under control. Consistent with the Mayor’s new guidelines, we will be taking a number of steps at Anshe Emet to make sure that we reduce risk as much as possible, while continuing to stay connected in meaningful and creative ways:
We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed.
We understand that it can be difficult to navigate conversations and manage expectations about risk and changing guidelines with kids, parents, friends and even within ourselves. Some of the things that we felt safe doing over the summer because we could be outside and cases were low, are now too risky – and we know that it is hard. But we urge to you to take this virus seriously and to take every precaution to minimize your own risk and that of your family and community.
We care about you, we are very grateful for you and we wish you safe, healthy, innovative and joyous celebrations, albeit from afar.
The Clergy, Staff, and Health & Safety Committee* of Anshe Emet.
Dani Lazar, Chair
Libby Alpern, MD
Marla Clayman, PhD
Curtis Weiss, MD
Dr. Emily Landon is an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at the University of Chicago. She writes on some of the ways we are talking to our families about the upcoming weeks: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/holiday-gatherings-safety-covid-19-pandemic
Lurie Children’s Hospital: https://www.luriechildrens.org/en/blog/celebrating-the-holidays-during-covid-19/
Q: How can I safely celebrate holidays this year?
A: If you really want to safely celebrate the holidays, you’ll need to figure out how to avoid travel and large gatherings entirely while still weaving in traditions you know and love. Opt for a small gathering with those in your quarantine bubble. Maybe organize a family recipe swap so everyone has a chance to try making your aunt’s famous mashed potatoes. Consider dropping off favorite foods to older relatives. Try an asynchronous gathering on Zoom or weave in things like a family movie night where everyone watches a favorite holiday movie while chatting online. Get creative.
Q: Why aren’t family gatherings automatically considered safe?
A: It’s really clear that family gatherings often become super-spreader events. That’s because people mistakenly assume they’re safe with trusted relatives and then don’t wear masks or practice social distancing. Holiday gatherings often involve travel, which adds risk. Plus, you’re spending time around extended family you may not see regularly. So on a practical level, whatever risk each person took in the past 10 or 14 days is the risk they’re now sharing with everyone else at your family’s dinner table. Your grandpa doesn’t need to go to a bar to get COVID-19 from a bar. He could get it from your cousin who went to a bar last week and is now unknowingly spreading the virus. Having all family members minimize additional activities in the weeks leading up to any gathering will decrease the risk of unknowingly carrying and spreading the virus to vulnerable family members.
Q: What steps do I need to take before the holidays if I want to celebrate with family?
A: If you’re planning to host a holiday gathering, there are three main things you need to do ahead of time to ensure it’s safe.
Q: What precautions do I need to take if I’m hosting an in-person holiday celebration?
A: If you’re going to be together without masks or social distance — and everyone hasn’t quarantined and limited their travel beforehand — then you’re putting everyone at risk. If you’re not sure your brother is really going to quarantine the way he says he’s going to, you can take some additional precautions: Have really good ventilation and air flow in the house and spend time in the largest room you can as opposed to smaller, confined spaces. Crank up the heat, open the windows and put the best filter you can in your HVAC system. An even better option is to socialize and eat a holiday meal outside. Whether you’re inside or out, keep people as far apart as possible and do that as much possible. Wear masks whenever you can. Make sure everyone washes their hands before they eat and have some hand sanitizer at the table if you’re using shared serving utensils or holding hands for prayer. Most of all, remember: If you really want to be protecting Grandma, the best choice may be not inviting her at all.
Q: Is it safest to skip large family gatherings and holiday travel altogether?
A: If you’ve ever been looking for an excuse to get out of a family holiday, this is your year to take a step back. Think long and hard about what’s right for you and your loved ones. For many people that may mean creating new, smaller (and safer) traditions.
Q: What’s the best way to travel safely this holiday?
A: While it’s always an individual decision, traveling long distances for holidays is not a good idea when older and more vulnerable family members are involved in your plan. People often have incidental or unanticipated close contacts during travel, so the last thing you want is to have unplanned, high-risk contacts and then stay at your grandma’s house.
If you’re going to travel:
Q: What do I need to discuss with my family/holiday guests before we celebrate?
A: If spending time with your family is important, decide what level of risk you’re willing to take and talk honestly about it with everyone. The biggest mistake is assuming everyone has the same definition of “careful” or that everyone does things the way you do. That leads to misunderstandings and puts people in situations where they feel like they have to bow to peer pressure even when they’re uncomfortable. Have candid discussions about each person’s requirements and what everyone’s expectations are. Default to the standards of the most cautious person in your group. If you can’t go that far, be OK with allowing more risk-adverse people to stay home to join by Zoom.
Q: I’m going to get a COVID test before I see my relatives. Is that enough to ensure that I’m being safe?
A: Unfortunately, a one-time test isn’t going to give you definitive answers about whether it’s safe to attend a holiday event without a mask and social distancing. Rapid tests miss a lot of COVID diagnoses, and a negative test today doesn’t mean you won’t develop COVID tomorrow from an exposure several days ago. The best time to get a COVID test is on days five to eight after an exposure. And even then, a negative test doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. So you should continue to quarantine until 14 days have passed from your exposure. If you develop symptoms after you get a negative test result, you may still have COVID, and you should consider getting another.
For additional information and COVID-19 holiday tips, check out information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
Q. When will we be able to come back to Anshe Emet in person?
A. We have recently begun to conduct small minyanim. To start, we are inviting lay leaders (Board members and Committee Chairs) to participate to observe the new protocols and provide feedback for future services. Our hope is to gradually expand both the number of people that can attend in person and the number of services. In addition, we have been exploring other small gatherings, including life-cycle events (weddings, brit milah, b’nai mitzvah, shivas) incorporating physical distancing and other safety measures. We are also exploring outdoor program and service options that offer more flexibility with less risk.
Q. What are some other steps along the way?
A. We have several milestones that we are working toward. While these steps may not necessarily occur in this order, we are evaluating the lessons learned at each milestone to inform the subsequent steps. It is very important to note that these plans and target dates are subject to change on short notice given the unpredictable nature of our current environment.
Q. How can I be invited to an indoor, in-person service or program?
A. During this testing period, the number of people being invited to attend services is limited generally to provide feedback and recommendations on the new protocols. If you would like to attend a service in the future, please contact us at email@example.com. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of evaluating your own risk and the risk you may pose to others in attending on-site services. We ask that people in high-risk groups or those who have close contact with members of high-risk groups think very carefully about their individual risk before attending.
In order to attend, you must:
Q. What about life-cycle events (weddings, brit milah, baby namings, b’nai mitzvah, funerals, shivas)?
A. For now, we are treating life-cycle events on a case-by-case basis. We are working with each individual or family on a one-to-one basis to determine what works best for them and is within the general guidelines that have been established for health and safety.
Q. Who is on the Health & Safety Committee? How often do they meet?
A. Anshe Emet created an inter-disciplinary Reopening Committee in June to advise and help guide decisions as Chicago gradually moved through the stages of reopening. The committee includes lay leaders: Elizabeth Alpern (medical), Marla Clayman (health communication), Dani Lazar (public health administration), Sam Schwartz-Fenwick (legal), Seymour Turner (facilities); and clergy and staff: Rabbi D’ror Chankin-Gould, Kim Carter, Boni Fine and Naomi Richman. The committee meets weekly.
Reopening Committee Update
July 10, 2020
Last Shabbat marked an important milestone for Anshe Emet with our first Torah service in more than 100 days! This service was the first in what we hope will be a series of milestones as we navigate these uncharted waters together.
Throughout this journey, we have been guided by the Jewish value Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh B’Zeh/ Every Jewish person is Responsible One for the Other. It is important to understand that the precautions we are taking limit the risk of spreading the virus to others. Anshe Emet, like any other place of worship, cannot eliminate the risk of transmission entirely. While the reopening committee is focused on what is in the best health and safety interests of the congregation, we must also rely on each person to follow all guidelines and make decisions that limit the risks to themselves, their families, and others. Individuals should assess their own risk level based on a variety of factors such as age, physical condition, ability to wear a mask for long periods of time, work environment (are you exposed to high risk at work?) and out-of-state travel.
The primary goal of this past Shabbat service was to have a minyan present so that we could read Torah and recite Kaddish. Members of the Reopening Committee and Anshe Emet staff were in the main sanctuary to make the minyan and participate in the service. We learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t. We were able to get a sense of the space and additional safety precautions that need to be considered over the next weeks and months. All of this informs our thinking about guidelines for any and all in-person programming.
The Reopening Committee is committed to keeping you informed and keeping you safe. To this end we are setting up a dedicated page on the Anshe Emet website which will go live next week. In the meantime, we welcome your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.