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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

Wed, October 21 2020 3 Cheshvan 5781