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JRC's Reopening Update and FAQ July 2020

07/09/2020 10:18:23 AM


When we first began to shelter in place in March, we yearned for the day when we'd return to normal. It has been a difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging time for everyone. JRC's swift and comprehensive reaction to the coronavirus kept us connected and in community. Acting on our deeply held values of pikuach nefesh (saving lives); caring for the elderly, infirm and at-risk; and focusing on community wellness over individual comfort, JRC responded with abundant caution to institute social distancing and working from home, and to completely redesign how we worship, learn, support one another, and work for the needs of our community (tzorchei tzibur).

As we continue the work of keeping each other safe and begin to contemplate a return to communal activity, we want to be sure that our actions are dictated by our values and are in concert with the best scientific and medical advice available.

Medical science and Illinois law must be used as the basis upon which we make decisions about how and when to open our building and return to in-person programming. Opening too soon may increase the likelihood of new outbreaks and force vulnerable individuals into the position of having to put themselves at risk or forego community participation altogether, further isolating them. We hold health and safety above all other concerns as a guiding principle.

Our expectations must be realistic. We should anticipate that COVID-19 will shape our lives for at least a year. We should expect gatherings of differently sized groupings to be permitted at different times and should not be surprised if some activities that are permitted are shut down again in response to new outbreaks or other relevant conditions

We appreciate those who have reached out to learn what JRC is doing during these times and thought it would be helpful to share some of the most common questions, along with responses.

Will JRC begin to organize small gatherings?
JRC is balancing both creativity and safety as conditions and recommendations continue to evolve. To be equitable and accessible to all of our members, all JRC programming will continue virtually for now. We so miss being with each other in person, but the risks of proximity, length of time, touching shared objects, and our human desire to be close do not suggest that we have arrived at this moment yet.

How is JRC approaching the High Holidays?
We know that JRC's High Holiday services this fall will look different than they have in the past. Our ritual practices and High Holiday committees are working with our clergy to create meaningful, connective, and innovative ways for us to celebrate the Days of Awe. Stay tuned for a questionnaire about what's most meaningful to you about JRC's Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur experiences so we can incorporate and develop programming. Because gatherings of such size will not be possible in person, we are exploring virtual ways for these observances to take place.

What is the plan to open Early Childhood?
JRC Early Childhood Center currently plans to open in September, as originally scheduled. We will be following the CDC, Illinois Department of Health, and DCFS guidelines as we develop plans and procedures for children and teachers to return to our preschool safely. While we are working through the processes to reopen this fall, we will continue to monitor the public health situation and will adjust our plans throughout the year in response to conditions. We note that our intimate program size allows us to limit the size of our gatherings. Registration for fall is open: Contact Shelli Patt, Early Childhood Director, for more information.

What is the plan for Religious School?
JRC is committed to having a meaningful and robust Religious School for the fall of 2020. While we don't yet know exactly what form it will take, we are actively planning for multiple scenarios that range from entirely in-person to fully online and everywhere in between. Later this month, we will be holding various parent sessions to explore together what our educational program can be and what makes sense for families. Please don't hesitate to be in touch with Rabbi David should you have further questions in the meantime.

I have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah scheduled this summer/fall/school year. What are my options?
Mazal Tov! B'nai Mitzvah is about embracing a more adult relationship with Judaism, and we are working with families ensure that this milestone and ritual can take place in a way that is safe and preserves our values and traditions. Even though our state currently allows gatherings of up to 50 people, this state guidance does not take into account many elements of in-person B'Nai Mitzvah activities. These involve close physical interaction between our clergy and our families, 2 hours together on a nearly weekly basis, touching shared ritual objects, use of shared bathrooms, and singing (which has a much higher and farther transmission rate than talking). As such, we are working with each family in our current B'nai Mitzvah class to create a Zoom-based experience. Our next planning meeting is on July 9th!

Now that it's Phase 4, what does that mean for JRC?
The state of Illinois is currently in Phase 4 per Governor Pritzker. While more businesses are legally allowed to open, this does not mean that JRC will necessarily resume use of our building at this time. We will continue to communicate with you as we determine when it is safe to reopen different facets of our in-person operations. Senior Leadership and staff are fine tuning what conditions need to be in place for our staff and clergy to be safe and feel comfortable to work in the building. Leadership will also determine what needs to be in place for us to gather in the building, including our ability to distance and establish effective cleaning protocols physically. Of course, we will comply with local, state, and federal guidelines as well as take into consideration the importance of the wellbeing of our members staff and guests. We will likely open up gradually and will be prepared to open and close intermittently if needed. Our building maintenance staff continues to work on special projects around the building. We cannot wait to welcome you back physically!

How does JRC make safety decisions?
The JRC Senior Leadership Team meets regularly with a health professional to discuss the most current COVID-related information as it pertains to our congregation. We base safety decisions on local, state, and federal guidelines, and we weigh how these decisions fit within our values. We consider ways in which we might mitigate risk, and then ask the question, "is it worth the risk?" Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our members and staff.

How can I continue to engage with JRC?
We have been calling our members to check in and see how they are doing and what they might need. JRC staff, clergy, and congregants continue to create programming that's educational and entertaining.

We will continue to offer a variety of online JRC content, including worship services, Torah study, cooking club, Shabbat circle time, and more. Our clergy post daily messages on the main JRC Facebook page, as well as hosting a variety of online programming you can participate in live (both via Facebook Live Streaming and smaller group Zoom sessions). Check out our JRC Community Calendar to stay up-to-date with JRC opportunities. We are learning a great deal from this time, so as we start to reopen, we will offer ways to combine in-person, live-streaming, and virtual programming, which will make it possible for more members to engage.

I'm not on Facebook. How do I access content?
JRC's Facebook page is public, allowing anyone to access it regardless of the viewer has a Facebook account. Additionally, we post our daily content on the JRC Community Calendar, including Clergy messages and Kabbalat Shabbat recordings, which are added to the dates they were shared. If you have additional questions, reach out to

Why are we using Facebook? Why Zoom?
Currently, JRC uses Facebook and Zoom as our primary forms of communication because we already had the infrastructure to use these platforms. Both platforms are free for members to access and are relatively easy to navigate for all users. Additionally, Zoom and Facebook work hand-in-hand, allowing JRC to live stream more effectively. Note that there is a separate Members of JRC Facebook page, which is run by members for members and is an excellent example of JRC's community spirit.

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Stay Safe!

Tue, January 19 2021 6 Shevat 5781