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US synagogues made COVID-safe High Holiday plans. Then came the Delta variant

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JTA — The leadership team at Ikar, a synagogue in Los Angeles, had just begun planning to move their services indoors. They had gone through a year of virtual services followed by several months of outdoor services for members vaccinated against COVID-19.

Then the Delta variant hit.

Now the synagogue, like many across the country, is reevaluating how to organize its High Holiday services, balancing the high rate of vaccination within the community with the threat from the Delta variant. The community’s medical advisory task force is setting a meeting for early August to decide what it can safely offer when Rosh Hashanah begins on the night of September 6.

“You want to make decisions way in advance, but the ball keeps moving and changing,” said Melissa Balaban, Ikar’s executive director. “And so in some ways, you know, giving it a couple more weeks and seeing what happens is going to be more helpful to us than making a decision right now.”

Decisions about how to plan for yet another holiday season in the shadow of COVID are keeping synagogue leaders up at night. Those decisions range from whether or not to hold services indoors or outdoors, on Zoom or in-person or both, with masks or without, with social distancing or without, and with options available only to the vaccinated or without regard for vaccination status.

For those attending services on the High Holidays, traditionally the most well-attended synagogue services of the year, that means yet another year of not quite “back to normal.”

“Last year, even though we were in the thick of it, I think a lot of folks sort of went with, what are we going to learn from this, what are we going to take from it?” said Rabbi Sari Laufer of Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles. “Now we’re a year later and I think we’re not where we........

© The Times of Israel

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