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Tempoarily Closed Due to COVID-19

Rabbinical Update - May 15, 2020

Dear Members of Our Community,

We hope that this letter finds you and your loved ones safe and well. It has been and continues to be a trying time for all of us, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. These are the kinds of times when we look out for one another with especially attentive eyes and open hearts.

Amidst all of the difficulties, there is some very promising news. Our communal compliance with the health guidelines has unmistakably paid off, diminishing rates of infection and death from the Coronavirus. This compliance has obviously come at a price, including the shuttering of our shuls for the past two months, depriving us fellowship, learning, and communal Tefilla. But we are proud of our fidelity to our halachik commitment that places the value of life (pikuach nefesh) above all else. As we move toward an easing of some restrictions, the question of the re-opening of shuls has of course come front and center. Our goal is to safely re-open our shuls as soon as possible, and we are already discussing mechanisms to prepare for that complicated eventuality. 

 As we did two months ago, the rabbis of our communities are speaking with one voice as to how we will proceed, as we seek to be faithful to Halacha, to remain in compliance with the law, and to protect one another’s health and well-being. We are guided by the principles enumerated in last week’s paper issued by the Orthodox Union and the RCA, and by continuous consultation with experts in the field. In practical terms, this will mean the following in terms of our communal behavior:
1.  We have not yet reached the phase of the County allowing the opening of houses of worship. That date has not yet been determined.
2.  As of this writing, no public gatherings of any size are permissible. As such, we continue to discourage in the strongest possible terms the conducting of minyanim of any size and in any location. Such minyanim endanger lives and must not take place.  
3.  Per the OU/RCA guidelines, we will reconsider reopening our Shuls only “at least two weeks after the local government has allowed public gatherings of more than ten persons, and have not seen upticks in disease.” Our commitment to the well-being of our community, in particular the elderly and the immune-compromised, demands nothing less.
4.  With a heavy heart then, but with complete confidence in the Halachik propriety of this decision, we are being explicit in saying that this includes the instruction that there not be any minyanim or learning groups (outside of immediate family) whatsoever over Shavuot. 

We urge all of our community members to abide by this policy. No one should be taking it upon themselves to make the judgement that the value of a minyan outstrips the disease or even death that might result, or outweighs our obligations to abide by the law. We will of course be in further touch with you as the circumstances change and, with God’s help, improve.

We remind all of us as well to conscientiously and religiously follow the practices  of social distancing.

Finally, we will ask everyone to consider marking “Yom Kippur Katan”, Thursday May 21st, as a day in which we engage in Torah, Tehilim / Tefila and Tzedaka. And for those who have the tradition to fast during these unique moments of calamity, to also take upon themselves a half-day fast (if you are physically able and comfortable doing so). We are a long way from the end of the danger presented by this pandemic, and beseech God for compassion and healing.

Rabbi David Adatto
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
Rabbi Pini Dunner
Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn
Rabbi Dov Fischer
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
Rabbi Alan Kalinsky
Rabbi Moshe Kesselman
Rabbi Elazar Muskin
Rabbi Ari Segal
Rabbi Joshua Spodek
Rabbi Y. Boruch Sufrin
Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin
Rabbi Kalman Topp
Rabbi Dr. Jason Weiner
Rabbi Avraham Zajac

Campus Closure Update - March 17, 2020

It is with a very heavy heart that we have decided to discontinue even the smaller daily minyan that we have maintained. Below we are sharing a copy of a letter that was sent to the Los Angeles Shuls. The letter proscribes very rigorous standards that should be implemented to limit the transmission of COVID-19, even when those interactions have small likelihoods of effecting transmission - we treat danger more stringently than we treat prohibitions.

Beth Jacob is our spiritual home and temporarily closing the doors is a painful but necessary step. We live in a world where our knowledge and understanding of medical science must shape and guide the halachic steps we take. The Talmud teaches: Sakanta gedola ma’issura—danger overrides prohibitions. While maintaining calm, this is a time to exercise vigilance, and understand that pikuach nefesh, danger to our health, is a matter that supersedes all other mitzvot and concerns (Talmud Yoma 85).


Letter to Synagogues throughout Los Angeles Area

Dear Fellow Community Members,

Over the last several days we have been hearing urgent messages from our elected officials and Department of Health representatives asking us to eliminate communal gatherings and to minimize in-person contact to the greatest degree possible. This is the best and surest way to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in our city. It will literally save lives and will prevent our local hospitals from becoming overwhelmed to the point of having to turn patients away.

This is the reason that we the undersigned have made the unprecedented decision to close our shuls and schools. It is vitally important, and a matter of Pikuah Nefesh, life and death, that everyone in our community abide by the following policies.

In order to receive professional guidance for the community, we held a conference call this afternoon with Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt of New York, an infectious disease expert and an Assistant Rabbi at the Young Israel of Woodmere, and Dr. Rick Riggs, Chief Medical Officer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in charge of overseeing Cedar's response to the Coronavirus. Considering our discussion with the doctors we the undersigned strongly recommend the following policies to be instituted immediately:

  1. Our shuls and schools will remain closed until further notice, when we are informed by the health officials that it is no longer a danger and we may resume our regular schedules. Until that time, every person should daven at home. There should be no house or backyard Minyanim since they undermine efforts to minimize the spread of the virus.
  2. We should all add Avinu Malkeinu at both Shachrit and Mincha until further notice. It should not be added on Friday afternoons or on a day when Tachanun is not said.
  3. All members of our community should minimize in-person contact with anyone outside of their immediate families. If you can work from home, please do so.Visits even among families should also be limited. Communication with parents and grandparents who are not living in your home should be virtual whenever possible.
  4. Although it is challenging in the absence of school, there should be no playdates or friend get togethers.One may play in the yard and go for a run, but it should not be with friends or with children of friends. We encourage people to go outside, but to stay distanced from other people even when outdoors.
  5. As social distancing continues, we should plan to have our Shabbat, Yom Tov and Sedarim without guests.
  6. "Shiva visits" should be made by phone or facetime.
  7. Support our Kosher restaurants by ordering out from the restaurants. Avoid eating in the confined spaces of restaurants which can lead to greater transmission.
  8. Only one person per household should go to the Supermarket. Children should not go to the store and people should not be socializing while in the store.
  9. Any person who has had exposure (defined as being within 6-8 feet for a period of 10 minutes or more) to someone who has testedpositive should immediately self-quarantine for 14 days. People without any symptoms who have been exposed to a COVID-19 patient should not at this time seek medical attention or seek to get tested. They should self-quarantine. Please note that while the official DoH position requires quarantine after exposure only if the person has begun to have symptoms, we strongly advise to err on the side of caution based on the advice of the aforementioned two physicians.

10) Call your doctor if you start to have symptoms (increased congestion, coughing or fevers). Seek emergency medical treatment if you have difficulty breathing, but please do not go to the emergency room if you do not need emergency care.

Call ahead if possible and advise health care workers of possible exposure to COVID-19. Ask for a facemask as you enter the facility. These steps will help the healthcare provider's office to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed. If possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.

11) For a COVID-19 test enter your zip code to find out the nearest COVID-19 test site. (from US website) Go to clinics instead of crowded large facilities. (Testing and Treatments are free.)

12) Any member of our community who has tested positive must immediately inform family and friends (or any acquaintances if applicable) who may have been exposed to him or her. This includes informing your rabbi or head of school.

13) We call on all of our community members and institutions to create formal systems and mechanisms by which people who are in need of assistance and people who can volunteer to provide assistance, are connected with one another. We encourage also helping the general public by donating to community charities of your choice. Please also remember to generously support Maot Chittim campaigns.

During these most challenging times when we all pray that Hashem accept our Tefilot, we encourage everyone to daven with exceptional Kavanah even though we are not meeting in our shuls for Tefilah B'Tzibur. We also ask you to set time for learning Torah and for doing Chessed. Each shul and school will be in contact with their members and students sharing their Torah Shiurim and Chessed opportunities that we all should join.

With Brakhot of good health and safety,

Rabbi David Block, Shalhevet High School
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Pico Shul
Rabbi Asher Brander, LINK Kollel
Rabbi Daniel Cavalier, Young Sephardic Community Center
Rabbi Pini Dunner, Beverly Hills Synagogue
Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, Yeshivat Yavneh
Rabbi Daniel Grama, West Side Shul
Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Orthodox Union West Coast
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, Bnai David Judea
Rabbi Yehuda Moses, Kehilat Mogen David
Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Young Israel of Century City
Rabbi Adir Posy, Beth Jacob Congregation
Rabbi James Proops, Young Israel of Century City
Rabbi David Revah, Adas Torah
Rabbi Ari Segal, Shalhevet High School
Rabbi Joshua Spodek, YULA Girls
Rabbi Arye Sufrin, YULA Boys High School
Rabbi Y. Boruch Sufrin, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy
Rabbi Kalman Topp, Beth Jacob Congregation
Rabbi Jason Weiner, Cedars Sinai Medical Center
Rabbi Aaron Wilk, Gindi Maimonides Academy


Thu, May 28 2020 5 Sivan 5780