IMPORTANT UPDATE ON REOPENING: An Exciting Day in Our History (B’nai Israel, Rockville, MD)

Dear B’nai Israel,
Sixteen months ago we closed our doors in the face of a situation none of us had experienced before. Our community rallied to maintain programs, services, and school (albeit in a very different way), and for that we are very grateful. Today we write with the exciting news that our synagogue is ready to reopen.
As of July 1, 2021, B’nai Israel will reopen its doors and resume welcoming our community as it has for nearly 100 years. Our Roadmap to Reopening Task Force has been meeting regularly to interpret public health guidelines and assess our community’s specific safety needs. In light of the State of Maryland ending its state of emergency and other Covid-19 related restrictions, and with the knowledge from a recent survey suggesting that nearly 99% of age-eligible B’nai Israel members are or soon will be fully vaccinated, the Task Force has recommended that our congregation may resume normal staffing and operational activities on July 1. While we are proud of all we have accomplished during the pandemic, we are elated at the thought that our building will again become the bustling and welcoming home for Jewish life that we all know and love.
As you can imagine, “reopening” will be a process with several markers along the way. Here are some important moments to look forward to:
July 1: Building ReopensOur doors will be unlocked and you can once again visit the synagogue as you normally would.
July 3: Shabbat Services Resume without Advance RegistrationBeginning this week, anyone who wishes to attend Shabbat morning or evening services may do so without a reservation. Certain pews will remain blocked and people will be asked to maintain appropriate distance, but seating will no longer be assigned. We will also resume those aspects of the service that had been suspended during the pandemic (repetition of the Amidah, Torah procession, hagba, etc.). Note that our enhanced Shabbat livestream will continue indefinitely for those who prefer to connect that way.
July 11: Morning and Evening Minyanim Resume In-PersonBeginning with the new month of Av, we will resume our twice-daily in-person Minyan. On that same date, we will officially end the sh’at had’hak (state of emergency) that has been guiding our approach to virtual worship.  We have currently been “counting” participants on Zoom towards our minyanim. While people will still be invited to participate via Zoom, only those in the room will count towards the required 10 for the purpose of saying Kaddish. In order to ensure a minyan each day, we are asking participants to sign up in advance so our Minyan Captains might know if they need to recruit a few extra people. Thank you to everyone who is helping us to restore this important feature to synagogue life. Please note that we will not be resuming the Saturday Minha service at this time; that service will resume when the congregational kiddush returns.
July 16: High Holiday Ticket Request Forms DueWe have developed a comprehensive schedule and plan for the High Holidays, which will be delivered to homes by the end of this month. We ask that you return the appropriate forms as quickly as possible so that our team can appropriately prepare. Rosh Hashanah begins on Monday evening, September 6.
July 24: Special Service of Renewal and Love, Followed by Outdoor KiddushThe first Shabbat after Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Nahamu, the Shabbat of Comfort. This year, that Shabbat coincides with Tu B’Av, a day that was celebrated as a Jewish Valentine’s Day. On that day, says the Mishnah, Jewish boys and girls would meet and celebrate the spirit of renewal that necessarily followed the period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples. Our Shabbat service on July 24 will be enhanced to incorporate these special themes. Following the service, we will gather outdoors for the first congregational kiddush in a long time. Please note that we are still not returning to a regular weekly kiddush; for now kiddush will be only on specific dates.
COVID-19 MASK AND VACCINATION POLICYOur synagogue maintains its welcoming policy for all without a need for vaccination requirements to enter the building. While we will no longer require the questionnaire of symptoms to be filled out upon arrival, we ask that if you do have any symptoms or have had contact with someone with COVID-19 to refrain from coming to B’nai. Our waiver will still be required, but only needs to be filled out the first time you come and then will be kept on file. If you have not been to B’nai Israel since Friday, June 18 please print a copy of the waiver when you come to Shabbat services or be prepared to fill it out upon arrival if you come to the building during the week.
Masks are still required in public spaces and during large gatherings, such as Shabbat services. Masks are optional for all outdoor programs and activities. Vaccinated individuals are also permitted to remove masks while speaking or reciting prayers from the bima. Vaccinated individuals may also remove masks during weekday services.
EVENT POLICYThe reopening of our building also permits us to resume small, private receptions with food. If you have questions about a facility rental, please contact our Events Manager, Patricia Simitakos, at We look forward to celebrating with you!
OFFICE HOUR ON REOPENING AND HIGH HOLIDAYSOur synagogue understands that this is both an exhilarating and cautious time for our community. Even as we open our doors wider, we understand that not everyone is going to be ready to return quite yet. We are committed to serving all our members’ spiritual and emotional needs.Rabbi Safra and Scott Hodes invite you to an open Office Hour – in-person from Dweck Sanctuary … or over Zoom – to discuss and answer questions about our Reopening and High Holiday plans. Please join us on Thursday, July 1, at 12:00 pm. Registration and access information will be sent next week.
We wrote many letters over the past year that ended with the notion that we look forward to the day that we can be together again – now it is here! We can’t wait to see you.
Steve Rothenberg, President
Scott Hodes, President-Elect
Rabbi Michael Safra, Senior Rabbi
Hal Ossman, Executive Director