High Holiday updates on COVID and other safety protocols for area congregations

by | Sep 8, 2022 | Featured


According to the results of a recent COVID poll (the New York Times Morning Section, Aug. 22, 2022), “One of the central findings is how much attitudes have changed since the spring. Americans are less worried about the virus today.”

How does this translate into what’s happening at local temples when it comes to COVID protocols? Along with this, Jewish News asked about another kind of safety and security, that of keeping houses of worship and congregations safe from outside threats and harm, with an eye on the recent national uptick in antisemitism. Not surprising, area congregations are prepared to keep their members safe.


B’nai Israel

Jeffrey Brooke, president


B’nai Israel has returned to in-person worship (“davening”) for many months now. During the worst of the pandemic, we were in touch with Rabbi Dr. Aron Glatt, an infectious disease doctor in New York and an expert in halacha (Jewish law). We were fortunate to be able to draft protocols in accordance with the CDC and the Orthodox Union for whom Rabbi Dr. Glatt was consulting. Those protocols have been relaxed over the past few months as the pandemic has (baruch Hashem) somewhat relented. We now simply advise attendees: “Covid-19 Policy: Anyone exposed to COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms must consult with a physician before attending synagogue.” A few members do still wear masks, and this is encouraged where appropriate.

On Security:

B’nai Israel was fortunate to receive a significant tranche of grants from United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Tidewater Jewish Foundation, and the Department of Homeland Security. This allowed us to install a robust system of security equipment and devices. Thanks to our security chairman, Lt. Cdr. Adam Goldberg (USN, retired), we have brought online a series of interlocking and redundant systems which protect the exterior of the synagogue and those davening within. We also expect the return of our armed security personnel from the Norfolk Sherriff’s Office this year. (Many thanks to Deputy Jody Drowns, who makes us all feel safe and is a favorite with the kids!)

We also appreciate the regular briefing and intelligence updates we receive from the Secure Communities Action Network. The consideration of security issues reminds us of the constant balancing effort required of a Jew. A Jew must trust but also act to protect himself. I am confident our congregation is up to the task this year, and we look forward to the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) on which the whole world is judged with what I believe is a proper mix of trepidation and excited anticipation.


Congregation Beth Chaverim

Chad A. Bornstein, president

We are not requiring any COVID protocols during services, but will have hand sanitizer at every door and a Zoom option for all.


Congregation Beth El

Deb Segaloff, president


This year, we are going to make masks optional and have open seating. We are encouraging everyone to join us in the sanctuary, but we will still be on Zoom and will be livestreaming.

On Security:

We always have security for the holidays. We have six officers for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and four officers for Kol Nidre. Since last year’s High Holidays, we’ve put new doors on the back of the sanctuary and a handicap ramp on one side. We’ve also upgraded our security system. All members and guests will have 2022 High Holiday tickets in addition to an ID card, or they can show their driver’s license if they don’t have an ID card. We also require special tags to be on the members’ rearview mirrors if they drive down Shirley Avenue or park on any of our lots.


Temple Israel

Nancy Tucker, executive director


Everyone who attends services must be vaccinated and wear a mask at all times. They must either bring their vaccination card with them or send it in prior to services. We are also asking people to social distance themselves.

On Security:

We want our members to be safe, and feel safe, when they come to their synagogue. With security visible, they know they will be safe in the building.


Temple Emanuel

Larry Weinstein, president


We expect that we will probably follow CDC guidelines. This means that we will probably not require masking or distancing. There will be a separate distanced seating section with required masking for people who are more comfortable that way. Masks could also be required on the Bimah when it is crowded.

On Security:

We will have security measures in place for the High Holidays. This includes both hardened facilities courtesy of a security grant we received a few years ago and security personnel. While the probability of an antisemitic attack during the High Holidays is extremely small, it is not zero, even in such a welcoming community as Virginia Beach. It is important to take reasonable precautions to reduce the likelihood of an attack and to reassure our congregants that we can gather safely during this sacred time.


Temple Lev Tikvah

Rabbi Doctor Israel Zoberman


We meet in a church so we follow the dictates of the Church of the Holy Apostles, which is both Catholic and Episcopal. Last year, we met in-person and via Zoom, but I feel more will go to in-person services. People are hungry for a living community. My sense is that more want to be in person.

On Security:

We are covered by the leadership of the church. They have very good security, so we are protected. They take special responsibilities and they like to look over us. These are dangerous times and we just have to abide by the Jewish supreme mitzvah to defend our lives and saving lives is very critical.


Kehillat Bet Hamidrash

Alene Kaufman, first vice president


Last year, we were totally virtual. We’re now going to be doing a hybrid approach, with Zoom and in-person. For in-person, we are planning to continue with our current Shabbat protocols: proof of vaccination and masks.

On Security:

We have congregation members who are trained and licensed volunteer security guards who we will supplement with police officers for the High Holidays. We also received a national security grant, so we are going to add more security measures.


Ohef Sholom Temple

Steven Kayer, executive director


Current Ohef Sholom Temple policy mandates that upon entering our building or attending any OST-sponsored event whether in or outside of the building, anyone (except children under age two) who is not fully vaccinated and (to the extent eligible) boosted must wear a mask over the mouth and nose. This rule applies to all activities including Soup Kitchen and any facility rentals. In addition, anyone with a temperature of 100.4° or over, who feels ill, or who knows they have been exposed to COVID-19 should stay home and not enter the temple building.

All services will be in-person and available via livestream.

On Security:

We always have security at every event at the Temple, which is increased for the High Holidays.

David Jarvis, chair of OST’s Security Committee, the committee, our staff, and our security consultant work year-round to assure that our congregants are properly protected whenever they enter the building, which is constantly being made more secure. In addition to our increased police coverage for the holidays, our ushers and staff have participated in a series of security trainings.

Debbie Burke