May 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Stamford Shuls Join Forces for the Yamim Tovim

In the COVID-19 era, Plan B seems to be the rule rather than the exception.With so many area shuls concentrating efforts to formulate alternate plans for davening during this year’s Yamin Noraim, the Young Israel of Stamford (YIS) and Congregation Agudath Sholom (CAS) of Stamford joined forces and shared resources to ensure each shul’s ability to plan services that would meet the needs of its congregants.

Stephen Davidson, president of Young Israel of Stamford, told The Jewish Link, “Davening on Rosh Hashanah was among the most meaningful I’ve ever experienced.”

At both YIS and CAS, Rabbi Eli Kohl, Rabbi Daniel Cohen and Rabbi Moshe Kurtz worked together with various shul committees to prepare for services during the unusual circumstances related to COVID-19. Simeon Wohlberg, the former shul president and head of the logistics committee for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur minyanim at CAS, explained that planning for the Yom Tovim began in April. CAS worked with three scenarios: full attendance, half attendance and several very small neighborhood services. Many of the small gatherings had to be eliminated due to a lack of cantors, Torah readers and shofar blowers. The eventual plan was to erect two very large tents in the parking lot, each accommodating 100 people, socially distanced, with a few smaller indoor minyanim.

Wohlberg explained that volunteers were ready to serve on various committees such as security, rental equipment, health concerns and other important issues. The shuls shared numerous cantors for the chagim and were in communication with each other. CAS conducted three services in their tents as well as five smaller indoor services.

Wohlberg shared, “In this crazy year, we saw only enthusiasm to come back to shul and feel we pleased everyone.”

Working within Connecticut state guidelines, the planning committees were concerned about possible flare-ups and the need to turn people away. Fortunately, that did not happen due to congregants’ diligence in adhering to COVID restrictions.

“We are planning the same for Yom Kippur,” said Wohlberg. “After the fast ends, we will take a deep breath and start on Sukkot!”

Davidson explained that YIS has a long-standing tradition of welcoming everyone into the shul, not requiring advance reservations or selling seats for the Yom Tovim. However, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, plans had to be adjusted. A survey was sent to people to “gauge interest in coming to a very different type of davening than people are used to.” Committee members wanted to know who would be willing to daven outside and who would attend a very early minyan. By offering davening at different times, the shul hoped to accommodate those with very small children who could then choose the best davening times to suit the family’s needs.

Once the decision was made to daven outside, YIS had to contend with a small parking lot and planning for socially distanced seating that would accommodate everyone’s wishes. “We prayed for good weather,” said Davidson, “and we were rewarded.”

For Yom Kippur, however, given the threat of rain, YIS rented a tent, which would be able to accommodate up to 75 congregants at each minyan. The shul was prepared to conduct an overflow minyan in the sanctuary, if needed, with HEPA filters running and with appropriate physical distancing.

“Our hope for Sukkot is that the weather will allow us to be able to be back outside exclusively,” said Davidson.

By Yvette Finkelstein

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles