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Coronavirus Update: March 6

With new information regarding the coronavirus and its presence in New York City and within the NYC Jewish community emerging by the hour, we want to share these important updates with the community.

This morning, we made the difficult decision to cancel Sunday’s Purim Carnival. Our current plans call for all other programs, services, and classes to take place as usual. The decision to cancel the carnival was based on the unique activities which require a high-level of touching shared objects and surfaces, and noting that the carnival, while traditionally central to our community’s celebration of Purim, is not essential to that celebration. Most of our fellow synagogues across the city have made similar decisions. Should additional cancelation decisions be made, we will notify you as soon as reasonably possible.

This weekend you will see new signage around the campus, as well as ample supplies of tissues and hand sanitizer. The operations team, in concert with our janitorial service, have been actively deep cleaning and disinfecting the campus, and wiping down door handles, doorknobs, etc. Where feasible, we will leave inside doors open to reduce the need to touch handles and doorknobs.

In the meantime, we want to remind everyone of the current best practices and update you on the preventative measures we are implementing for Shabbat and other gatherings. At the bottom of this email, you will find links to additional resources. We ask you to review this information carefully and act accordingly for your own health and safety, and for the health and safety of our community.

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath: 

  • Stay home if you are feeling sick (and keep your children home if they are at all symptomatic). Then call your healthcare provider for further guidance.
  • Stay home (self-quarantine) for 14 days from exposure if you believe you have been in close proximity and/or had prolonged contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
  • Governor Cuomo has ordered that New York insurers waive cost-sharing on coronavirus testing. Speak to your health care provider about getting tested should you exhibit symptoms, or think you have been directly exposed to the coronavirus.

We ask that you adhere to these important best practices:

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is the next best option. 
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Get your flu shotit’s never too late.
  • Where possible, avoid putting bare hands/fingers on surfaces such as tables, door handles, doorknobs, etc. (use elbows, sleeves, gloves).
  • Should you be returning from travel to a country or an area of the US with high COVID-19 presence, per the CDC recommendations you should self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the time you left the affected area, monitor your health, and avoid contact with others. If you develop fever, cough, or trouble breathing, you should call your medical provider right away.
  • Contact the New York State coronavirus hotline at (888) 364-3065.

A reminder that through our livestream, anyone can join the community remotely for Shabbat services and some other programs if their health condition could put other community members, as well as the spiritual leadership and staff, at risk. If you need help accessing the livestream, or wish to borrow a siddur, please email You can also purchase a siddur of your own here.

This Shabbat and Purim

We are expanding our recommendations with regard to physical greetings and other physical exchanges:

  • When you enter the BJ campus, we ask that you wash your hands in the bathroom, and/or use hand sanitizer. This is especially important if you arrive via public transportation.
  • The clergy will refrain from hugs, kisses, and handshakes at the receiving line on Shabbat. We appreciate your respecting this decision. The community is also encouraged to practice non-physical greetings.
  • We suggest you refrain from kissing ritual objects (Sifrei torah, communal talitot, siddurim, mezuzot) that are also kissed or touched directly by other individuals.
  • We suggest replacing hand-holding with hands on shoulders during Lekha Dodi. 
  • We are replacing full challah loaves with rolls to avoid the tearing/sharing of challot.
  • We are replacing shared serving implements with either staff servers or individual single-use serving implements for each kiddush dish.
  • We request that parents plate food for their children, and keep children away from food tables, including dessert.

You will find additional details for families with children in this message from Michael Witman, Director of Family Life and Learning.

Please keep in mind that, generally speaking, this is not a life-threatening illness for those who are healthy. However, like some flu strains, the illness can be serious for those with pre-existing respiratory issues, or other underlying health problems.

We are developing contingency plans for various scenarios that may suggest reduction in scope and/or canceling of programs, perhaps including gathering in person for Shabbat services. Should such a decision be made, the community will be alerted via email and robo-calls. Should such a decision be made during Shabbat, as a matter of pikuah nefesh, the preservation of life, we will break the halakhic prohibition on the use of technology to communicate with the community at that time. 

Finally, as a Jewish community rooted in the value of hesed and committed to caring for one another, we want to remind everyone who needs support that we are here for you. In general, our Bikkur Holim (visiting the sick) volunteers offer home and hospital visits, home-cooked meals delivered, and help getting to doctor visits or to shul. At the moment, we are in the process of determining how Bikkur Holim volunteers will continue to offer support in light of the coronavirus and any updates provided. Regardless of the specifics, we always care about your health and want to know how you are. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Billie Di Stefano, our Hesed Programs and Life Cycles Manager, so we can support you in a time of need.

Coronavirus update for Families

Read the latest coronavirus update for families with children, from Director of Family Life & Learning, Michael Witman.