As the pandemic continues to ebb and flow, Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase has returned to in-person classes at its religious school. This fall, though, the classrooms for the synagogue’s 250 students are outdoors.
Synagogue leadership prioritized getting students back in person quickly and safely, said Katherine Schnorrenberg, the clergy and school administrator. “The word of 5782 is ‘adapt,’” she said, referring to the Jewish year.
During the high holiday services, Temple Shalom met outside under a large tent. It worked so well that leadership decided to hold religious school in the tent, too. “The walls are not as important as our faith and how we teach,” Schnorrenberg said.
“Kids’ Time” is one of the youth programs offered through the synagogue, where children 2 and younger can play and parents can gather. There were learning curves to getting outside programs working smoothly, Schnorrenberg said. The synagogue had to secure furniture and large, plastic carpets to meet the demands of a patio or a grassy lawn.
B’nai mitzvah are back to being in person now, much the same way they were pre-pandemic, albeit without walls and under a tent. The synagogue is still taking serious precautions and attendees 12 and over must attest to being vaccinated and are strongly encouraged to remain masked even in outdoor spaces.
Additionally, all congregants must fill out and submit contact tracing forms so that if any member should test positive for COVID-19, all attendees can be notified to minimize the spread.
Though in-person events are beginning to return, some have opted to remain online during hybrid programming, “Older members of the community have embraced the online/hybrid events,” Schnorrenberg said. “The technology [does not deter them].”
With these precautions in place alongside online programming. Temple Shalom is able to maintain some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy.
Temple Shalom has also resumed its Intro to Judaism course, which has benefited from an online format.
“We find that because it is online, people from further away who may not have otherwise been able to participate are taking part in the course,”
The synagogue will also begin hosting a Hebrew for adults class. Both adult courses are exclusively online, but instructors hope to shift from online only to a hybrid format in the near future.
Temple Shalom will also host a toiletries drive through the nonprofit So Others Might Eat, Oct. 15-22 and Oct. 25-29. For information, visit firstname.lastname@example.org. WJW