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Prayer Guidelines for In-Person Services During the Covid-19 Pandemic

After a long wait, FTJC began piloting limited in-person, outdoor tefillah on Shabbat mornings, beginning Saturday August 15. Pre-registration will be required.

These services are a part of many offerings designed to support our experience of community and the nurturing of our spiritual lives. Limited in-person services represent one way in which some members of our community can participate in the life of FTJC during this difficult period.  We have many ways to pray together, study together, and support one another—by phone or Zoom or text, before and after Shabbat, and all week long. 

In addition to joy and relief, we re-initiate our in-person tefillah with a strong sense of yirah (awe, reverence, or fear). In the Blessing for a New Month, we ask for a renewal of chayim (life), characterized by two kinds of yirah which are paired together.

First, yirat shamayim (reverence for the divine). The rhythm of communal tefillah has been the heartbeat and lifeblood of the Jewish people for millennia, an essential way that we as Jews connect with God. For many of us, it has been challenging, even devastating, to feel that connection fray in the interruption of this rhythm, and resuming it fulfills a deep longing. 

And second, yirat cheit (fear of transgression). We know that in-person gatherings of any kind during this pandemic are not entirely free of risk to health and life, and that in creating such opportunities we have a tremendous responsibility of care, to guard ourselves and one another from harm as much as possible. 

The commitment to safeguarding the health of all of our congregants will impact the number of people who can attend a service, and the way in which the service is conducted, including singing, aspects of liturgy, and even socializing.  

Sadly, we acknowledge that in-person tefillah in this period will not be accessible to everyone in our community. Beyond the defined numbers who can attend to accommodate health guidelines, many of us will feel unable to attend due to factors such as underlying medical conditions, age, childcare, or sharing a home with others who are at risk. Each individual should consult their doctor and make their own choice, but we strongly urge those with risk factors to stay home, and to work with us to find other meaningful ways to engage with the life of our FTJC community.

We are one community, although separated now by circumstances and scattered by location. Those who attend these in-person services should see themselves as sheluchim, agents or messengers conducting tefillah on behalf of the entire community. Those who are unable to attend might strive to see themselves as represented by others whom we as a community have designated. One way to stay connected is to daven at home at the same time as the in-person congregation (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 90:9).

This is of course a pilot program for the current moment, and can be impacted by a chilly autumn and rainy weather, a worsening of the local epidemiological conditions, or a change in public health guidance from relevant authorities.

Our In-Person Planning Team continues to explore options for indoor services, as well as whether, where, and how any High Holiday services might be conducted. 

In the meantime, we hope that the community will feel heartened by the hope and progress that even these limited services represent. Let’s enjoy the opportunity while it lasts. Let’s be thankful and gracious to our hosts. And let’s turn our hearts to the One who is rofeh cholim, the Source of Healing.

Here’s a short description of what the service will look like. 


There will be one sheliach tzibbur (prayer leader) for the entire service.

We will begin from “Rabbi Yishma’el Omer” (p. 55).

We will conduct our full liturgy from that point forward.

Davening will be conducted efficiently.

The sheliach tzibbur will be in the middle of the congregation, facing forward.

The sheliach tzibbur will sing selections only. Everything else will be led in nusach (standard melodic chant).

Singing along is permitted (with masks) although it is difficult to generate strong communal singing when spread apart outdoors.

There will be NO sermon.

Torah reading

The entire Torah service will be conducted by ONE person, from petichah (taking out the Torah) to gelilah (wrapping the Torah) and returning it.

The leiner (Torah reader) will chant the entire portion and take all the aliyot, and will chant the Haftarah. In this situation, the maftir aliyah is superfluous and will be skipped.

While this method loses all the ritual choreography of the Torah service as a re-enactment of Sinai, it is simplest and safest from a health perspective, and leaves more attendance slots available for other congregants.

The service will begin at 9:30 AM and will run approximately until 11:15. Attendees should arrive between 9:15 and 9:30. 

Registration guidelines

Due to social-distancing requirements, we have a limited number of spots for each week's service. In addition to three spots reserved for service leaders, priority will be given to people saying Kaddish, and to FTJC members. Open spots will be assigned randomly, rather than on a first-come, first-served basis, in order to ensure fairness.

Spots will be assigned by household, whose members can sit together at services. 

Please read all the guidelines below before registering. The deadline to register is Tuesday at 5 p.m

At this time, NY state guidelines limit our capacity. FTJC is implementing this guidance with attendance limited to 15 household units, each to be spaced at least 6 feet from one another. Attendees will be chosen through registration and lottery system.  The link to register is included at the end of these guidelines. (Please read them!)

Households consist of people living in your apartment or house, including family members or roommates. People who live in a different location are not considered part of your household.

Shabbat davening will take place outdoors. Restrooms will be available indoors. 

To ensure social distancing children may attend only if they are infants who remain in a carrier/stroller at all times, or are of pre-b’nei mitzvah age (entering 6th grade and up) and remain in the company of an adult in their household in their assigned seating area.

All attendees, including service leaders, must properly wear a face covering or mask at all times.

Please bring your own siddur and/or chumash. (A limited number of copies will be available on site for those who do not have their own.)

After tefillah, there will be no kiddush or socializing, and you must depart immediately, except for the volunteer team that will sanitize and stack the chairs and table.

We strongly advise that anyone who is immunocompromised, over the age of 65, or in a higher risk category (e.g. pulmonary conditions, diabetes) should not attend. Please consult your physician before making your decision.

You may not attend if you:

Have any of the following symptoms: fever greater than 100.4 F, cough, shortness of breath, headache, body aches, nausea/vomiting, or loss of smell or taste.

Contracted COVID-19 or an undiagnosed illness with similar symptoms within the past 14 days.

Have had contact with or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.

Traveled out of the country in the past 14 days.

Are not in compliance with the New York State Travel Advisory for domestic travel (


On a misty morning, or very light drizzle, it’s possible that the service could go forward, but we cannot put a Sefer Torah at risk of damage.

On Friday evening, Rabbi Guy will check the forecast and decide whether to cancel the Torah-reading section of the next day’s service. 

On Saturday morning, service participants should look outside, or perhaps walk to the service location, and judge whether a service (without Torah) is realistic. If it is raining hard at 9 a.m., assume services will be cancelled.

If a service is cancelled due to rain, regrettably we cannot roll over guaranteed attendance slots to the next week. Those participants will need to re-register for another lottery for the next Shabbat on which they hope to attend.

Link to registration 

If you are interested in registering for the lottery for this week’s Shabbat service, on Saturday, please click here to fill out the Google form.


Thu, December 2 2021 28 Kislev 5782