By Lexi Gopin
After more than a year of worshiping on Zoom, Kol Shalom synagogue in Rockville will open its doors for Shabbat services on Saturday.
The Conservative synagogue is one of several in the Washington area responding to the loosening of state COVID-19 restrictions and the CDC’s latest guidance on safe activities for vaccinated people.
Kol Shalom’s executive director, Deborah Finkelstein, said Shabbat morning services are a big part of the congregation’s culture.
“We are so excited because we know people are hungry for this,” she said.
Services will be available only to vaccinated members and participants must wear masks. Unvaccinated members can still join the service via Zoom. Half of Kol Shalom’s membership have proof of vaccination, Finkelstein said.
“We are hearing from people that they’re anxious to get together safely and that’s what we intend to do,” she said.
In the District, Adas Israel Congregation will welcome all in-person worshippers on June 12.
Laurie Aladjem, president of Adas Israel, said the transition to in-person services has been gradual. Until now, those who wanted to attend in-person were required to register.
In addition to looking at COVID-19 metrics and the latest CDC guidance, Adas Israel relied on a medical task force made up of congregants who are experts in the field to reach its decisions.
“We’ve said we follow the science and we did that when we closed. And so it seemed appropriate to do that, again, as we look to allow more people to come together,” said Aladjem.
Masks and social distancing will still be required while indoors for attendees of services at Adas Israel. However, masks will not be required for fully vaccinated members at outdoor services and community events.
“We feel good,” said Aladjem. “The clergy feels good. They like having people in the room. It’s why they do what they do. We feel we’re ready.”
Shaare Tefila in Olney will hold its first in-person service on June 12. Executive Director Jonathan Cohen said the new CDC guidelines allow the congregation to gather again safely. Cohen added that giving their community members a chance to pray in person again is “at the very core of the Jewish faith.”
“We’re very excited about being together in person,” said Cohen. “There’s no replacement for in-person gathering in terms of prayer and events. So we’re very happy that we’re able to come back together again, after a year.”
Vaccinated parents may bring their unvaccinated children, who are required to wear masks. Unvaccinated adults will not be able to attend for now.
“Hopefully by the High Holidays, things will be at a point where everyone will be able to attend regardless of age, and synagogue life will go back to the way it was before the pandemic,” he said.