By Mary Klaus
Note: Due to evolviing circumstances with the COVID-19 Delta Variant, plans may change. Please contact your synagogue or visit their website for up-to-date information.
Although Jews frequently pray alone – in extended sessions or short recitations throughout the day - the power of a congregation singing together is what draws many to the practice.
The pandemic squashed that tradition. For months, Harrisburg-area rabbis gazed into cameras in empty sanctuaries conducting services which were live-streamed to congregation members in their homes. Throughout the pandemic, everything from baby namings, bat and bar mitzvahs, and funerals have been held with limited or no in-person attendance.
As more people received vaccinations and numbers of Covid-19 cases fell, congregations began to plan in-person services. With the Delta variant of Covid causing a surge and updates from the Centers for Disease Control, plans for daily, weekly, and High Holiday services are in limbo, just as many organizations were beginning to expand in-person programming and services.
Some synagogues are welcoming congregants into the sanctuaries for in-person services with or without masks and social distancing, while others continue to offer virtual or hybrid services. Many plan in-person services for the High Holidays. Check congregation websites for the most up-to-date information.
Here’s the status of Harrisburg-area congregation services as of mid-August:
BETH EL TEMPLE – Since early July, all Friday night services at 6pm, Shabbat morning services at 10am, and selected minyans are back to in-person at Beth El. People are asked to sit as a household at places indicated by the ushers.
People not ready to return to in-person services may turn to Beth El’s live streaming access for Friday night and Saturday morning services and Zoom minyans on days it is not in person.
Visit bethelhbg.org for more information and updates.
CHISUK EMUNA –Since July, weekly in-person services have been back. The shul’s Covid-19 Task Force requires all attendees at Chisuk Emuna to be vaccinated and to wear masks.
The synagogue sent a letter to congregants in late July following the uptick in COVID-19 cases to outline possibilities and garner input in assisting in planning of High Holidays services. The congregation expects to require masks for all over the age of two and to hold hybrid services. For up-to-date information, visit www.chisukemuna.org.
Shabbat morning services are at 9:30am Saturdays with reservations required to attend in person. Contact the office at 717-232-4851 the Thursday before Sabbath to make an in-person reservation.
Havdallah Saturday evening services are held at varying times starting a few minutes before sunset. Reservations are not required. Daily minyans are held weekdays starting at 7:15pm, with no requirement for reservations.
Chisuk Emuna also plans to host an Ice Cream Social and Open House featuring kid’s games, stories with Rabbi Ron Muroff, and more on Sunday, August 29th from 1 – 3pm. A rain date will be announced.
KESHER ISRAEL – The Orthodox synagogue was the first in the area to resume in-person services. Shabbat services are being held at 7pm Fridays and 7:50pm Saturdays at the Jewish Community Center and 9am Saturdays at the older Kesher Israel building at 2500 N. Third St as the synagogue works on construction of its new building. Read more about progress and updates on the project at kesherisrael.org.
Everyone, including fully vaccinated people, must wear a mask while attending Kesher Israel indoor in-person services and functions. People who feel ill are asked to stay home until they are well.
High Holidays services will be held both indoors and outdoors, with plans still being made as of press time. The shul sent a survey to congregants in mid-August to plan according to members’ needs and comfort. Visit kesherisrael.org for more info.
TEMPLE BETH SHALOM – The West Shore, Reconstructionist synagogue has been holding services on Zoom every other Friday at 7:15pm. After the High Holidays, services will be held both on Zoom and in-person every other Friday at 7:15pm.
Rabbi Carl Choper will conduct High Holiday Services for people to attend in-person, on Zoom, and via livestreaming on YouTube. All participants – whether in person or virtually -- are asked to register on the congregation website or call the office at 717-697-2662 to provide the registration information. Although there is no ticketing or charge, donations are welcome.
Those attending the indoor service in-person are asked to be vaccinated, wear a mask, and sit in pews which will be socially distanced by family pods. For more information, visit www.tbshalom.org.
TEMPLE OHEV SHOLOM – The Reform synagogue began holding in-person services and announced that b’nei mitzvah lessons, Tot Shabbat, and other programs would resume through their “Back to Shul” plan (available at ohevsholom.org). The synagogue reinstated their mask requirement for all visitors in early August following changes to CDC recommendations.
Throughout the pandemic, Shabbat services have been livestreamed and posted to the Temple Ohev Sholom Facebook page.
High Holidays Services will be held both in-person and online, and up-to-date information can be found at ohevsholom.org/high-holidays-2021.