Because of Covid restrictions, the New Orleans Jewish Community Center had a drive-thru Purim celebration on Feb. 28.
Is a return to normal life on the horizon?
With several states relaxing or eliminating mask mandates, Covid cases on a sharp decline and a larger proportion of people, especially seniors, receiving their second Covid vaccine, some institutions are loosening their restrictions — a little.
All institutions still require masking and social distancing, and have limits on attendance. The vast majority of community events are still being planned for the virtual world.
At Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center, the locker rooms reopened as of March 1. Masks are still required in the facility, unless showering in the locker rooms or swimming in the indoor pool. The sauna, whirlpool and towel service are still not available, and in the men’s locker room, only one person is permitted per side of the shower area.
Sign-ups are no longer required for the fitness floor or other indoor areas, except for the indoor pool. Group fitness classes still require advance registration for indoor and poolside classes.
Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El is expanding in-person Shabbat evening services, starting March 5. Previously, attendance was limited “to only those with an immediate need for mourning, prayer, or life events,” and there were no known cases of spread at Emanu-El.
Members who have received the second vaccine dose at least two weeks earlier may attend, but will need to attest to their status in writing and register online for services. Those who are not vaccinated need to be approved by the clergy.
Emanu-El will continue requiring masks, temperature checks, social distancing and hand washing, with seating in family pods and sequential dismissal at the end of the service.
Birmingham’s Temple Beth-El is looking to resume in-person services with the daily minyan. Prior to Covid, Beth-El had the only twice daily, every day minyan in the region. A survey was recently distributed to determine whether enough members are ready to return for minyan, which will initially be held outdoors, socially distanced in the breezeway from the alley to the lower parking lot. “At the appropriate time, we hope to be able to start Friday night and Saturday services as well.”
In Mobile, Springhill Avenue Temple has completed an initial step toward reopening, with the installation of a self-cleaning ionization air purification system in all of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Starting March 6, Agudath Achim in Shreveport is resuming Shabbat morning services, at 10 a.m. Masks and social distancing are required.
Northshore Jewish Congregation in Mandeville is holding an in-person Torah service on March 20 at 10:30 a.m.
Gates of Prayer in Metairie holds in-person services on Fridays at 6:15 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., in addition to livestreaming.
Temple Sinai in New Orleans is also offering in-person options for Shabbat evening services, while Shabbat morning continues to be online only. Reservations are required for those attending in person, and masks must be worn at all times.
Beth Israel in Gulfport is also planning to resume in-person Shabbat evening services at 6:30 p.m.
Congregations remaining closed through at least the end of March include B’nai Sholom in Huntsville, Beth El in Anniston, Emanu-El in Dothan, Beth Israel in Jackson.