Building Policies

Image of plant arrangement in stairwell at Mishkan Shalom

COVID Times Covenant Policies on Building Use and Gathering 9-1-2021

Access to the building or grounds around the building will only be by pre-clearance with the Mishkan Shalom office or by pre-registration where required. (Please call the office 215-506-0228, ex 1000 or e-mail in advance for authorization).

The building may re-open with limited access beginning on Sept. 25, subsequent to the High Holy Days.

The covenant below applies to all use of Mishkan facilities and to all Mishkan gatherings.

Appointments are required to meet with any staff member, including either of our rabbis.

Anyone entering the building will wear a mask, along with being vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people should participate in Mishkan gatherings via Zoom.

Any use of the building or grounds for Mishkan activities, whether by a Mishkan group, tenant or renter, needs to be scheduled in advance with Maria.

Mishkan groups and committees should continue to make use of Zoom and/or outdoor meetings when possible. Use of the building must be arranged in advance with Maria.

Anyone hosting a Mishkan gathering at their home needs to specify in event information whether the event is indoors or out, whether mask-wearing will be required, whether unvaccinated people may attend, and how safety for all will be maintained.

If I/we are entering the Mishkan Shalom building having pre-registered for a program or obtained clearance from the office, I/we agree to the following in order to ensure well-being and respect for all members and rental partners:

Covenant for a safe and healthy return:

If I am over 12 years old or older and not vaccinated, I will enjoy services and other gatherings from home. 

I will wear face masks, properly covering my mouth and nose, whether indoors or outdoors, at all Mishkan Shalom gatherings.

I take responsibility to make sure that all of my family members and any guests comply with keeping our masks on during all official Mishkan gatherings.

When participating in Mishkan Shalom gatherings I will follow COVID safety guidelines including maintaining a three-foot distance from people who are not part of my household.

I and my family will not attend any in-person gathering if any of us have potential COVID symptoms.

Infants and children under 12 may attend children’s and family services and programs with their parents, staying with their family group or pod, and keeping masks on. Infants and children under 12 may not join events indoors where those 12 and up are gathering.

I will participate in contact tracing and inform Mishkan Shalom and any known fellow attendees if I or any of my household members are diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days following any Mishkan Shalom gathering we attended.

If I am hosting an official Mishkan event off-site, whether in my home or elsewhere, I will  communicate in advance with participants what COVID safety practices will be required, and what options will be offered.  Even outdoors, masks are encouraged for all regardless of vaccination status.

Testing for Covid-19 through a home-test or clinic test is also an additional optional safe health measure.

The Hashiveynu group will continue to monitor COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Philadelphia Department of Health and may further restrict in-person activities should pandemic conditions and social distancing protocols change.


We have the honor and responsibility to create and maintain a sanctuary as a sacred space. At the same time, our Statement of Principles as well as our congregation's history encourages us to open our building—including our sanctuary—to others who share our goal of repairing the world.

It should be noted that Mishkan Shalom's policy on food is that only dairy or pareve foods (they do not have to be kosher certified) are permitted. No meat (including poultry) or shellfish are permitted.

Member Use on Shabbat

Mishkan Shalom will continue to make our space available for the celebration of simchas in conjunction with the Shabbat religious service. e.g. bnai mitzvah, baby namings, auf-ruf, anniversaries, etc.

In connection with these simchas, work may be done by vendors such as caterers, musicians, d.j.'s, and custodial help, including the use of electricity and the gas stove. The only work done during this time by custodians (who are paid by the hosts of the simcha ) should be related to the event: setup, cleanup, emergencies, security.


Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful Shabbat, is a central facet of Jewish identity (Klal Yisrael). According to one teaching, Shabbat is the way that the Jewish people replicates the experience of God as it was felt in Sinai and in the Mishkan. Our building should model Shabbat Menuha, rest and renewal.

Halacha presents one clear way to model Shabbat. Within our own Reconstructionist community are widely divergent understandings of what observing Shabbat means or should mean. We recognize the importance of Shalom Bayit and look for a way to respect these differences. The value of Reconstructionism also considers, not only the wider tradition, but Mishkan's own tradition as important components.

Balanced against the traditional rules of guarding the Sabbath are the importance of simcha, celebration, and kehilla, community. As an intentional community, we want to make our social hall a welcoming venue for our members to rent. We want them to feel a part of the community and, in locating their life cycle events in our space, to feel "ownership" of our building.

We also considered the facts of Mishkan's long time practice. For example, we routinely plug in the coffee makers for onegs and the sound system for services in order to enhance our community's coming together on Shabbat. Many "extended onegs" for celebrations of baby namings, anniversaries or bnai mitzvah are professionally catered. Before we moved to our own building, many of our bnai mitzvah families routinely chose to follow up the ceremony with a luncheon (in another building) with specially-invited guests. We want to continue these simchas while continuing to honor Shabbat. So we recommend limiting work done by vendors and custodians to only that which is necessary to support the simcha.

As part of our current rental contract, we are charging an hourly rate for custodial coverage for the period that vendors are in the building. The custodians thus employed should be working only on the event. For example, they should not be cleaning classrooms or doing other work not directly related to the simcha. (They may, however, be handling security or parking or enforcing house policies.)

Financial transactions related to the event should be conducted before or after Shabbat.[/collapse]

Music on Shabbat

Live music is permitted at simchas on Shabbat, with no limitations on the kind of instruments that may be used.

RATIONALE: While more traditional Jews interpret the fall of the Temple to prohibit music on Shabbat, we do not. Our own practice currently allows guitars, drums, tambourines, keyboards, etc.

Live musicians as well as disc jockeys are permitted to play music on Shabbat but the music should not be so loud that it can be heard on the third floor. This also means that amplified music should not be played outdoors.

RATIONALE: The values Shalom Bayit and Shabbat Shalom influenced this recommendation. There should be space in our building on Shabbat for prayer and study. Other members of the congregation should not have their use of the building for those reasons impaired by a simcha. The values of Kehilla and Rachmanut as they relate to our relations with the Roxborough community also suggest that we keep the volume down.


Child Care on Shabbat

Activities in child care may include using crayons, pencils or markers. This policy should be posted outside the child care room so parents may make their decisions about whether to bring their children to child care.

RATIONALE: For many members of Mishkan, Shabbat Shalom requires child care — both so that parents of small children may participate in the services and that other davenners are not distracted by children in the sanctuary. While "tot shabbat" introduces the little ones to Shabbat, it lasts for only a portion of the adult service. We see various forms of play, especially in a group setting with a single caregiver, as respecting the being of a child.


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Photography on Shabbat

No photo — or videography — is permitted in the sanctuary on Shabbat, with one possible exception: Photos may be posed in the sanctuary after congregational events are finished (i.e. after 2 p.m.)

RATIONALE: The values of Shabbat Shalom, Menuha, Kedusha and Izun informed this recommendation. We believe that photography or even videos taken from a tripod are intrusive and could be distracting and offensive to other davenners.

Families who wish pictures in the sanctuary should arrange to have them taken before Shabbat. If that is not possible, photos should be taken after 2 p.m., when most congregants can be expected to have left. If this option is chosen, it should be made known so that congregants intending to use the sanctuary for private prayer may choose the chapel instead.

RATIONALE: Shalom Bayit and Rachmanut prompt us to offer this option.

Photos and videos may be taken at private parties in the social hall following the end of the congregational oneg.

RATIONALE: While we believe that respect to other members of the congregation suggests that families refrain from taking photos or videos during onegs, we put photography in the same category as musicians, caterers and d.j.'s., permissible as part of the private party.

Inform guests of this policy. The congregation and families planning simchas that will include guests from outside the congregation should publicize this policy. The rental contract should inquire whether pictures will be taken and prospective renters should be informed of the policy. It also should be included on the list of building policies by which prospective renters must agree to abide. Additionally, the policy might also be stated on bnai mitzvah supplements or on cards inserted in prayer books.[/collapse]

General Shabbat Policies

The use of electronic devices like cell phones or beepers is not permitted in the sanctuary on Shabbat, except for emergencies.

RATIONALE: The values of Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful Sabbath, Kedusha , Holiness; Kavanna, Mindfulness; and Menuha, rest and renewal inform this policy. Rachmanut, compassion, prompts us to leave to individuals the decision on what constitutes an emergency.

The use of electronic games or other devices (like headphones) are not permitted in the sanctuary on Shabbat.

RATIONALE: While games like these may make it more likely that youngsters will be quiet during a service (Shalom Bayit, Rachmanut), we do not find that to be a compelling reason to overcome the value of Shabbat Shalom. We note that children who are not in the sanctuary during services must be supervised by an adult and all adult members should be sensitive to sharing that role.

No synagogue business should be conducted on Shabbat, including answering the telephone. The copying machine may not be used for any purpose.

RATIONALE: In this instance, we find no congregational values in conflict with those of Shabbat Shalom, Kedusha, and Menuha.

For congregant cleanup after onegs , both the electric vacuum and hand carpet sweeper should be available, but the cleanup should be done in the quietest way possible.

RATIONALE: Cleanup is a necessary function, but others may be using the building for meditation or study and every attempt should be made to respect that.

We encourage members to, as much as possible, make the building a Shabbat space, and to choose to affirm the difference of the day. E.g.: Not using cellphones or electronic devices in any part of the building, and using the steps instead of the elevator.[/collapse]

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Non-Religious Use of Sanctuary

On days other than Shabbat, Mishkan Shalom's sanctuary may be used for non-religious purposes in keeping with our Statement of Principles and which respect the sanctity of the space. These activities may include, but are not limited to, concerts, theatrical performances, and lectures. Whenever possible, classes and meetings should take place in other places in the building. Food and beverages are not permitted in the sanctuary without special permission and additional rental charges.

RATIONALE: Among the values that must be balanced in policies regarding use of our sanctuary are:

  • Kavvana, mindfulness and attention to our thoughts and actions;
  • Rachmanut, compassion for each other and our families
  • Kedusha, holiness;
  • Kehilla, community;
  • Hakhnast Orhim, welcoming guests;
  • Tikkun Olam, Repair of the World;
  • Tzedakah, righteousness and sharing resources;
  • Bal Tashlit, Do Not Destroy (Stewardship)

Kavvana and Kedusha argue for a separation of the sanctuary from mundane activities, but Reconstructionist and Jewish practice do not preclude its secular use, especially if the size or design of the room (without columns) is the best to enhance the event. Our values of Kehilla, Tikkun Olam, Hakhnast Orhim, and Tzedakah argue for providing wide accessibility to our building, while maintaining stewardship of the building and being financially responsible (Bal Tashlit).

Unless given special permission by the Building Committee, no food or drink but water should be permitted in the sanctuary, except for foods related to rituals (wine or grape juice, challah, and wrapped "simcha candy.") This policy applies not only to services on Shabbat but also when the sanctuary is being used for allowable uses. This prohibition includes snacks for children. It does not preclude baby bottles or breast-feeding. Food is permissible in the pre-function space, and should be eaten there.

RATIONALE. In this instance, the values of Kavvana and Kedusha , as well as Bal Tashlit take precedence. While the value of Rachmanut, compassion, could argue for allowing refreshments, we believe the fact that there are many other rooms in the building (including the pre-function space nearly adjacent to the sanctuary), allows for that value to be fulfilled. In addition, our stewardship of the building and financial resources argue for reducing as much as possible damage to the walls or carpet of the sanctuary.


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An Environmentally Conscious Structure

Energy Star 2004 Congregation Award Winner
ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

Mishkan Shalom's synagogue is a 27,000 square-foot, 144-year-old felt mill building that was renovated into a congregational facility with a sanctuary, faith-based school, and social hall.

As part of the facility’s rehabilitation, all windows were replaced with double-paned, low-emissivity (low-E) windows, and 4 inches of insulation was installed between the decking and the new roof. In addition, all of the facility’s hot water pipes were insulated.

The heating system was completely revamped with the installation of a high-efficiency boiler controlled by a programmable thermostat. Ceiling fans were installed in the sanctuary to draw rising warm air from the ceiling in the winter, and provide air movement to increase occupant comfort in the summer.

The lighting system was improved by installing 36 recessed can lighting fixtures, each with its own ballast and replaceable compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), in place of incandescent lamp fixtures. Motion sensors, occupancy sensors that detect when congregation members or staff are in an area and respond by turning the lighting system on or off, were installed in the bathrooms, chapel, library and sanctuary atrium.

Mishkan Shalom also purchased ENERGY STAR qualified office equipment including ten computers with monitors, and printers. In addition, Mishkan Shalom installed a Ner Tamid, or eternal light, powered by its own solar photovoltaic array. All together these upgrades are saving Mishkan Shalom 15,400 kWh of electricity, 1,900 Therms of natural gas, and $5,700 dollars a year while preventing 47,500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.[/collapse]

4101 Freeland Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19128 - ph: (215) 508-0226 / Site map