(Tuesday, May 19, 2020) As the state of Ohio lifts some restrictions on public gatherings, with outdoor seating at restaurants already open (May 15), indoor seating at restaurants beginning May 21,  gym and fitness centers reopening May 26 and child care May 31, some synagogues in Cincinnati are beginning to resume services, with restrictions.

The Beis Din of Cincinnati, comprised of rabbis from the Orthodox synagogues – Cincinnati Community Kollel, Congregation Sha’arei Torah, Congregation Zichron Eliezer, and Golf Manor Synagogue, –    together with representatives from Chabad of Amberley Village has circulated guidelines for a first step toward reopening: the authorization of pre-scheduled minyanim with preregistered participants, to take place outdoors. This first step and the guidelines of the Cincinnati Beis Din are in accordance with those of the Orthodox Union and were formulated with consultation of local and national medical experts and government officials.

The Beis Din restricts attendance of the outdoor minyanim to pre-registered individuals with a maximum of 14 participants; minyan coordinators are to keep the same people together for recurring minyanim, and switching from minyan to minyan is discouraged. Participation is barred for individuals who have any symptoms consistent with coronavirus or who have had Covid-19 and have not yet been cleared by their doctor to leave home, and to members of more vulnerable groups, including those 65 years and older or with underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease or diabetes. These restrictions are in accordance with current CDC recommendations. 

Participants in the minyanim must commit to wearing masks and practicing social distancing not only at the minyanim but also “outside the home in all circumstances where interactions with others are anticipated.” They are to bring their own items (siddur, tallis/tefillin, chair) and participants should “be prepared  to have no access to a restroom or other facilities” since the adjacent building will not be accessible.

The Beis Din specified that “the davening speed is [to be] efficient; the ba’al  keriyah (Torah reader) is to do every component of the keriyas haTorah service himself;” and “in the event of rain, minyanim must be cancelled.” If the minyan coordinator observes that any rule is not being obeyed, the chazan (service leader) or ba’al keriyah is to be stopped immediately and the service is not to continue until the rules are completely followed; a minyan is to be cancelled and the participants sent home in the case of repeated violations.

Chabad, CZE, Golf Manor, and Kollel are beginning outdoor minyanim in accordance with those guidelines. Congregations have not decided the formats for Shavuot services, which begin on Thursday evening, May 28.

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