With MoCo poised to open further, Aspen Hill synagogue sets ground rules for its first big Shabbat services

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The feel of an open siddur in one’s hands is an experience available at home. The singing of a cantor or the sermon of a rabbi can be livestreamed on computers across a neighborhood.

But the sensation of Jews physically standing side by side, their voices raised harmoniously in communal prayer?


Many in the Jewish community have been waiting for this ritual to return to their lives with aching hearts. At Kehilat Pardes – The Rock Creek Synagogue, spacing requirements and mandatory masks are, to some, a small price to pay for return to this relative normalcy.

“I just want to say, I am wild about the decisions, the process to reach those decisions, and the manner in which Rabbi Uri Topolosky and the KP Board leadership communicated about our upcoming tefillah decisions,” Michael Weintraub posted in Kehilat Pardes-Rock Creek Synagogue’s Facebook group. “So thoughtful, so smart, so evidently thought through. May we all have the wisdom and the courage to make the best decisions we can knowing that nothing is perfect.”

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Up to 50 people (over bar or bat mitzvah only) will be permitted to attend outdoor services with the Aspen Hill congregation in accordance the county’s Phase Two rules. Registration is required and masks are mandatory. Everyone must bring their own siddur, and participants will stand at six-foot intervals for the parking lot service.

“As we re-open, we continue to remind all of our community members to consider health and safety first,” Rabbi Topolosky wrote in the announcement laying out the guidelines for this weekend, the first Shabbat services to be held since March. “Per the OU guidelines, we discourage the attendance of anyone at high risk of severe COVID-19, including those over age 65 or those with chronic medical conditions.  We also note the OU Poskim have stated that “even a young and healthy individual who is personally concerned about shul attendance due to COVID-19 is exempt from attending Minyan and is free from the obligation of reciting Kaddish.”


For Saturday night and Sunday morning services, whoever doesn’t make it into into the lucky maximum 50 can still attend — as long as they stay in their car. The guidelines specify that men in cars are counted toward the minyan as long as they can see and hear the chazzan.

The guidelines also say that anyone even “under suspicion” of having COVID-19 should not attend.

Share with us how your synagogue is planning to reopen. Email [email protected]

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