By Lee Chottiner
As the community continues to emerge from the two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic, Keneseth Israel has revised its weekday minyan policy to tighten conditions under which Zoom worshippers may be counted towards the religiously required quorum of 10.
The KI Ritual Committee has voted to adopt two changes to its policy:
• Those attending minyan via Zoom will only be counted if their cameras are on and they can be seen.
• Torah services will not be conducted if fewer than five people are present in person.
The changes, which took effect on June 7 with the evening minyan, apply only to weekday services. Only YouTube is used for Shabbat and festivals. The old policy, which had been in place since the start of the pandemic began, counted any person on Zoom towards the minyan.
Rabbi Ben Freed said the revisions reflect an effort by KI to accommodate in-person and virtual worshippers while still honoring halachah (Jewish law).
“We continue to hope to see people return in person to services,” he said, “but we want to remain accessible to people who are unable to come into synagogue.”
At the same time, the decision conforms to recent teshuvot (written opinions) by Conservative rabbis who have considered the use of livestreaming during services.
“The Conservative movement has indicated that, if one is to count people online, then there needs to be visual confirmation of their presence,” Freed said. “That was the baseline we wanted to bring ourselves to.”
The new policy is consistent with other Conservative congregations. Adath Jeshurun also includes Zoom participants in weekday minyan services and permits reading from the Torah if six or more worshippers are present in person, according to Rabbi Robert Slosberg.
It has discontinued Zoom during Shabbat, though people can still livestream services on the AJ YouTube Channel.
Slosberg left open the possibility of more changes to the policy. “It’s a work in progress,” he said.
Likewise, Freed said the Ritual Committee will continue to monitor the pandemic, its effect on synagogue attendance, and will adjust its policy as needed.
“There may be more changes coming,” he said.