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Coronavirus Update

Update: 4/2/2020

Dear Friends, 

I have been thinking a lot recently of Ben Bag Bag’s statement in Pirkei Avot about the expansiveness of Torah: Turn it over and over again, for one can find everything within it.  

As the world changes daily, the halakhic system has had to keep up. Questions have arisen in every precinct. It seems virtually every aspect of Jewish life is being put to the test. So many of these issues are simply unprecedented. Who could have dreamed up a scenario in which every shul around the world would be closed? Who could have imagined a shivah in which no visits are permitted? 

 

And yet across this country and in Israel rabbis have been working round the clock to find ways to apply timeless halakhic values to these new circumstances. Mining sources both known and obscure, they have reified Ben Bag Bag’s proposition. They’ve found accommodations for people unable to immerse new utensils in a mikvah; creative alternatives to disposing of chametz rather than burning it; and remedies for people unable to take haircuts before the Omer. (Together with our poskim, Rabbi Wildes and I are now working on a potential solution for people who will be alone for the Seder. Stay tuned!)

Of course we wish our circumstances were different. But there is also comfort in the knowledge that are our mesorah is so rich and so vast that we can keep pace with a life-altering pandemic. In the process, we’ll be writing new chapters in the annals of halakha. Let’s hope those chapters will soon become academic. 

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine

Rabbi

Pre-Pesach Reminders

Errands

We have established a committee of volunteers, chaired by Jessica Gross and Chani Segall, to help anyone who may need a hand with errands. To request help or to volunteer, please email jr1445@yahoo.com or chanisegall@aol.com.

Guests

Sadly, I'm afraid, this Pesach will be like no other that we have experienced. Fundamental to Yom Tov itself and to Pesach in particular is the ethic of hospitality. We invite into our homes family and friends, guests and beginners. The people around our tables are indispensable. This year, however, the ethic of preserving life will take precedence. Heartbreaking as it may be, no guests will be permitted.

 

Mechirat Chametz

This year, facilitating the sale of chametz will not take place in person. Instead, on our website you can find an online form that may be submitted directly. It’s also possible to download the form and mail or email to us. Please note that all forms must be submitted by Monday, April 6. 

Pesach Meals

As a community service, we have created a Pesach-in-a-Box option that allows our members to order all-inclusive pre-prepared Pesach meals for the Seder, Yom Tov meals, or both. Individual items may be ordered as well. Please find all the details on our website. Please be sure to order soon as the deadline is quickly approaching.

Toveling

The Keilim Mikvah will continue to operate daily from 9am-2pm. If you cannot make it to the Mikvah, we would be happy to arrange for someone to make the trip for you. Just let us know. 

Maot Chittim

We always ask that people contribute Maot Chittim so that those in need can enjoy Pesach with dignity. This year, I worry that the economic impact of coronavirus may leave some individuals and families in particularly dire straits. Please make checks out to the Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung Fund or donate online and earmark your donation with the words: Passover Relief.

Siyum Bechorim

Our siyum this year will take place virtually via Zoom on Wednesday, April 8that7:45am. 

Bedikat Chametz

The search for Chametz takes place on Tuesday evening, April 7th.

Biur Chametz

While we have an obligation to destroy chametz, this year we will forego the standard practice of burning chametz. Instead, one should dispose of a small quantity of chametz by flushing it down the toilet.  

Eruv Tavshilin

Normally, preparing food on Yom Tov for use the next day is prohibited. When Yom Tov falls on Friday, however, one may prepare for Shabbat on Yom Tov if one symbolically begins the preparations prior to Yom Tov. This symbolic preparation is known as an eruv tavshilin. One should set aside one baked and one cooked item; usually an egg and a matzah are used. The brachah of al mitzvat eruv is recited and the items are held while one recites the prescribed formula. Please remember to prepare an eruv tavshilin on Wednesday afternoon. The foods should be eaten on Shabbat.

Tefillat Tal

While the special prayer for dew, recited on the first day of Pesach, is typically said with a minyan, it may be said at home beginning with the word Tehomot.

Shir Ha-Shirim

Shir Ha-Shirim should be recited at home on Shabat Chol Ha-Moed (April 11).

Yizkor

While it will be difficult not to be in shul for the recitation of Yizkor on the final day of Pesach, please be assured that Yizkor does not require a minyan and may be recited in its entirety at home.

Click here for the complete Pesach Calendar.

Update 4/1/2020

Dear Friends,

Seeing the construction of a field hospital in Central Park this week was almost other-worldly. Perhaps not less upsetting was seeing a sign outside a Central Park playground that read, “Play at Your Own Risk.” Needless to say, the playground was empty. So many aspects of our lives have been thrown off kilter. That children have to be told that playing might put them at risk is particularly poignant.

So I just wanted to pause for a moment to acknowledge the extraordinary and even heroic efforts of our schools in these past few weeks. For the children who have seen their lives overturned, our teachers have provided a sense of stability, constancy and inspiration. So many of their tools have been taken from them and yet they have found endless forms of creativity. They have been asked to do so much with so little and yet our children continue to learn and grow and thrive.

The very word Haggadah is built around the notion of telling the Jewish story to the children. But the Targum traces the roots of the word to the notion of thanksgiving. The farmer thanks Hashem (ve-hegadeta) for his bounty (Deut. 26:3). So it’s particularly apt during this Pesach season to appreciate the contribution our teachers make in the lives of our children. For those of us who see their impact on a daily basis, let’s be sure to let them know how much we appreciate them.

The Talmud (Shabbat 119b) teaches that the breath of schoolchildren sustains the world. Imagine the reward for those who sustain the schoolchildren. 

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine

Rabbi

 

Update: 3/31/2020

Dear Friends,

Throughout the ages, it seems that epidemics and scapegoats have often gone hand in hand. And Jews made for easy targets. Inkwells have run dry documenting the massacres of Jews that followed the Black Death in the middle of the fourteenth century. 

But this story is not just about medieval European history. Much more recently, this phenomenon came to our shores. When passenger ships in 1892 brought cholera with them to New York, fingers began pointing at all-too-predictable targets.

Here is an unedited citation from the New York Times. 

I offer here only two comments. 

First, the absence of this sort of language in the mainstream media today should not be taken for granted. If we have to endure the travails of a pandemic, at least we endure them at a time when our country has no tolerance for this sort of rhetoric. Free speech is still free and there are surely fringe elements in our society that spew anti-Semitism at times like this. But by and large, our public discourse has spared us the kind of opprobrium that would have been all-too-familiar to our great grandparents. 

Second, our own experience should make us even more sensitive to the repugnance of racism at a time like this. Everyone has their hands full these days. But we can’t allow bigotry of any kind to slip through the cracks. Prejudice against Asian Americans is unacceptable. We have to call it out and insist that our citizenry rise above it. Viruses do not discriminate. Neither should we. 

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine

Rabbi

Update: 3/30/2020

Dear Friends,

As scientists around the world race to find a vaccine for Covid-19, I would humbly suggest that we should be thinking about preventative measures of our own. Commenting on the pasuk that insists we help our faltering kinsmen (Lev. 25:35), Rashi long ago gave voice to the notion that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

As a new week dawns, more and more Americans are waking up to joblessness or the prospect of underemployment. It is certainly heartening that the government is trying to do its part, but we also need to do ours. The Talmud teaches that among competing priorities the needy of one’s own city come first. In a world of limited resources, proximity matters. We need to think first of the people closest to us. I have two groups in mind.

First, let’s make a special point of supporting our local establishments. I already miss seeing my friends in the shoe repair shop around the corner and wonder how they are faring. Among the businesses that remain open, maybe our patronage can help keep them afloat a little longer. I don’t think I’ve ever encouraged anyone to splurge on take-out food, but if ever there were a time… this is it.

And second, let’s think about how we can help the people in and about our homes: babysitters and tutors; nannies and domestic help; aides and caregivers. If we can find ways to continue supporting them, it could make all the difference. 

Who knows? Maybe in the merit of our pursuing a policy of prevention, Hashem will deliver the cure. 

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine

Rabbi

Update: 3/27/2020

 
Dear Friends:
 
I hope very much that you will join us for Kabbalat Shabbat this afternoon and Havdallah tomorrow night. Please find the links below.In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy these short videos. The first two feature Rozzie & Jacob Pinto and Yehoshua Goldstein.I’ve also provided a few reminders for Shabbat as well as links to a few articles that I thought you might find of interest.With warmest regards for a Shabbat Shalom,
 
Yosie Levine
Rabbi
 

 

 

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Though we can’t physically daven in the same location, we can at least daven at the same time. Please join us tomorrow at 9am.

 

Please recite this special Tefillah for the victims of the coronavirus.

 
 
We won’t hear the parsha read in shul this week, but we will still have the opportunity to read it ourselves. This week we begin the book of Vayikra.
 

 

Because Tachanun is not recited in Nissan, we will discontinue the recitation of Avinu Malkeinu.

 
 
Articles of Interest
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Update 3/26/2020

Dear Friend,

Growing up, it was always a source of pride for me that my father was a doctor. And it still is. I’ve always had a deep and abiding respect for the medical profession. In its noblest form, medicine provides a platform for empathy, altruism and self-sacrifice.

So it’s particularly upsetting to see daily news stories about supply shortages in our local hospitals. The headlines look as though they’ve been lifted from another time or place. But the stories are all too true. Here in New York City, our local doctors and nurses are desperately low on supplies.

In a time of crisis, our natural impulse is to turn inward. We are preoccupied adjusting to our new realities. We are searching for ways to cope with stress and anxiety. And on top of it all, we are preparing for a Pesach, the likes of which we’ve not seen in our lifetime.

Pesach itself is celebrated inside the home. But the Torah tells us that before Pesach, we need to venture out – to find and prepare the paschal lamb.

I’m not suggesting that we leave our homes. I’m simply suggesting that – even if only briefly – we turn outward.  

Our doctors, our nurses and every one of our health care professionals are putting their lives on the line for our community and our fellow New Yorkers. The least we can do is to make sure that they have the equipment they need. In what I hope will be a project in conjunction with our sister synagogues, The Jewish Center is asking you to donate disposable hospital masks, gloves and gowns. If you have supplies to contribute, just be in touch with us and we will arrange for them to be picked up.

If it’s axiomatic that to save a life is to save a world, then to save the life of a doctor is to save a thousand worlds.

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine

Rabbi

 

Update: 3/25/2020

Dear Friend,

In rabbinic parlance, there are two models of Pesach: Pesach Mitzrayim and Pesach Dorot. In this formulation, the one and only Pesach observed by the Israelites in Egypt was sui generis. Never again, went the thinking, would Jews be forced to sequester themselves in their homes on Seder night so as to avoid the dangers of the plague raging outside. 

Sadly, I'm afraid, this Pesach will be like no other that we have experienced. Fundamental to Yom Tov itself and to Pesach in particular is the ethic of hospitality. We invite into our homes family and friends, guests and beginners. The people around our tables are indispensable. 

This year, we will once again find ourselves sequestered in our homes as we try to keep this virus at a distance. But unlike our Seders in Egypt, heartbreaking as it may be, no guests will be permitted. In many if not most cases, even grandparents will be separated from their grandchildren. Much as we wish we could, we cannot have it any other way. The risks are simply too great to bear. These times don’t call on us to be cavalier; they call on us to be careful.

The Talmudic logic enabling one to violate Shabbat to save a life speaks directly to our moment. We violate one Shabbat so that a person may live to observe many Shabbatot in the future. By keeping guests away from our Seder tables – by insisting that people celebrate Pesach alone – we do indeed violate the spirit of a holiday that begins with the announcement, “Whoever is hungry, let them come and eat.” But we can all take great comfort in the knowledge that by playing our part, we are doing nothing less than saving lives. By surviving Pesach alone this year, we will give everyone the chance to celebrate Pesach together next year. 

Our doors will be closed, but our hearts will be open. 

There is still much to do. I hope the information below regarding upcoming classes and Pesach preparation will be helpful.

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine

Rabbi 

Classes and Programs

We have arranged a robust calendar of online classes and events, many of which are designed to help you prepare for Pesach. Please find the complete schedule and Zoom links on our website. Just to highlight a few:

·        Wednesday, 3/25 at 2pm: What Italy Can Teach Us About Coronavirus: An Interview with Maurizio Molinari, Editor-in-Chief of La Stampa.

·        Wednesday, 3/25 at 830pm: Dr. Rachel Levine: Navigating Loneliness, Anxiety and a Very Different Sort of Pesach During this Time of Social Isolation

·        Tuesday, 3/31 at 7:45pm: A Pre-Pesach Kitchen Primer: Everything you need to know to make Pesach in your home. Co-taught by Rabbis Yosie Levine and Elie Buechler.

Please also join us weekly for Kabbalat Shabbat and Havdalah. And to the extent possible, participate by video. In these times of isolation, it’s a great boost to be able to see one another.

Shabbat Hagadol

Please note that my Shabbat Hagadol Drashah will take place via zoom on Thursday, April 2nd at 8pm:

Jewish Blood:

Family, Faith and Future

Three Messages for Pesach in the Time of Pandemic

Errands

We have established a committee of volunteers, chaired by Jessica Gross and Chani Segall, to help anyone who may need a hand with errands. To request help or to volunteer, please email jr1445@yahoo.com or chanisegall@aol.com.

Mechirat Chametz

This year, facilitating the sale of chametz will not take place in person. Instead, on our website you can find an online form that may be submitted directly. It’s also possible to download the form and mail or email to us. Please note that all forms must be submitted by Monday, April 6. 

Pesach Meals

As a community service, we have created a Pesach-in-a-Box option that allows our members to order all-inclusive pre-prepared Pesach meals for the Seder, Yom Tov meals, or both. Individual items may be ordered as well. Please find all the details on our website. Thanks to a number of generous sponsors, we are happy to provide Yom Tov meals free of charge to any member for whom cost is an issue. 

Toveling

The Keilim Mikvah will continue to operate daily from 9am-2pm. If you cannot make it to the Mikvah, we would be happy to arrange for someone to make the trip for you. Just let us know. 

Kashering

While it will likely not be possible to arrange for kashering at The Jewish Center, we are here to help. Please join us on Tuesday evening for an interactive Zoom session that will answer all our Pesach questions. In addition, you can find our Pesach-in-ten-easy-steps guide on our website. And of course you are welcome to call, email or text with any questions. 

Maot Chittim

In the weeks leading up to Pesach, we always ask that people contribute Maot Chittim so that those in need can enjoy Pesach with dignity. This year, I worry that the economic impact of coronavirus may leave some individuals and families in particularly dire straits. Please make checks out to the Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung Fund or donate online and earmark your donation with the words: Passover Relief.

Siyum Bechorim

Our siyum this year will take place virtually via Zoom on Wednesday, April 8that 7:45am. 

Yizkor

While it will be difficult not to be in shul for the recitation of Yizkor on the final day of Pesach, please be assured that Yizkor does not require a minyan and may be recited in its entirety at home.

Youth Department Haggadah

The Jewish Center Youth Department is now hard at work on the creation of a Jewish Center Haggadah. Submissions of artwork, divrei torah, poetry, etc. are welcome! If someone in your family would like to get involved or contribute, please email sarah@jewishcenter.org.

 

Update: 3/24/2020

Dear Friend,

I was saddened to learn that yesterday 100 Americans lost their lives to coronavirus. In our tradition, that number holds a special significance.

The Talmud (Menachot 43b) teaches that a person should always make a point of reciting 100 blessings on a daily basis. According to the Tur, this tradition dates all the way back to King David. There was in those days, he writes, a plague ravaging the nation. Every day 100 people were lost. In response, King David enacted legislation prescribing that every Jew recite 100 brachot.

As a plague ravages our nation, it is surely appropriate for us to do the same. 

In these days of uncertainty, that I was healthy yesterday says nothing about what my status will be today. And so our daily recitation of brachot takes on so much more meaning and so much more urgency. Whatever our anxieties, we would do well to remember the most basic of tenet of all: What a gift it is to be here. 

Let's make our blessings count. 

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine 

Rabbi 

 

Update:3/23/2020

One of the best signs I have seen recently read, "We are Essential. We are Open." It was posted on the front door of a liquor store. I was happy to know that the proprietor was able to keep a sense of humor even during these trying times.

This pandemic has highlighted the question of what is essential and what is discretionary. What must we have and what can we live without? In pushing us away from one another, this cruel virus has reminded us that we really cannot live without one another. Friendship; companionship; community. All of these are essential and fundamentally indispensable. 

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then perhaps this pandemic will give all of us a renewed appreciation for all the people we're not seeing these days: the schoolchildren waiting for their bus; our fellow shul-goers; the familiar faces on the subway. 

We are all adapting to this new reality. And every crisis brings with it its own opportunity. One of my Zoom classes last week brought back two Jewish Center members who had made aliyah more than ten years ago. 

I invite you to adapt along with us and join one or many of the below opportunities to get together virtually: To study, to daven or just to connect. And if you're technologically savvy, I invite you to reach out to someone who is less so and share with them all the ways they can join us. 

We will all get through this. Together. 

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine

Rabbi

Update: 3/20/20

Dear Friends,

I will miss seeing you at The Jewish Center this Shabbat, but I hope we can see one another both before Shabbat begins and after it concludes. On Friday afternoon at 630pm, I invite you to join us for a virtual Kabbalat Shabbat led by Cantor Jonathan Green. And on Motzaei Shabbat at 8pm, please join us for a musical Havdalah with our multi-talented Teen Coordinator, Yoni Stokar.

In the interim, I hope you will enjoy three short videos. Please find two short clips from JC kids (Livia, Sienna & Cora Schilowitz and Eli Menchel) that I hope will lift your spirits. The third video features words of Torah for these fraught times.

Below, please find a few important reminders.

With warmest regards for a Shabbat Shalom,

Yosie Levine
Rabbi

The Schilowitz Kids Sing

Shalom Aleichem by "Cantor " Eli Menchel

Erev Shabbat Message 3/20/2020

 

  • Even if we can’t daven together literally, let’s at least daven together at the same time. We’ll start our davening at home at 9am. (I promise we’ll end before 11am.)

  • Please say a special משברך for the members of our community who are so desperately in need of our Tefillot. אברהם שמואל בן רחל and גימפל מרדכי דניאל בן שרה איטה.

  • We won’t hear the parsha read in shul this week, but we will still have the opportunity to read it ourselves.

  • This Shabbat is also Parshat Ha-Chodesh, the third of the four special parshiot that we read in the weeks leading to Pesach. Remember to read it as well (Exodus 12:1-20).

  • This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim. Birkat Ha-Chodesh, the special prayer for the new month, may be recited without a minyan and should be said at home. Rosh Chodesh Nissan is on Thursday. 

Erev Shabbat

6:30PM Virtual Kabbalt Shabbat  with Jon Green

https://zoom.us/j/599465623

646-558-8656 Pin: 599 465 623#

6:50PM Candle lighting

 

Shabbat

7:51PM Shabbat Concludes

8:00PM Virtual Havdallah with Yoni Stokar

https://zoom.us/j/647772248

646-558-8656 Pin: 647 772 248# 

Update: 3/18/2020 

Dear Friends,

While I have been missing see you in shul, it has been nice to connect with many of you by phone, email, text, WhatsApp and Zoom. Our older members have been particularly appreciative of all the support that they have been receiving from our shul and our volunteers.

As Pesach approaches, I wanted to share with you a brief update on our preparations and a number of communal issues. Many people are home for Pesach for the first time or for the first time in a long time. Please know that, particularly under these difficult circumstances, we are here to help.

Errands

We have established a committee of volunteers, chaired by Jessica Gross and Chani Segall, to help anyone who may need a hand with errands. To request help or to volunteer, please email jr1445@yahoo.com or chanisegall@aol.com.

Mechirat Chametz

This year, facilitating the sale of chametz will not take place in person. Instead, we will make available to you forms that can be scanned and mailed or emailed as well as an online form that may be submitted directly.

Hospitality/Guests

As a general rule, there is no time of the year at which our community excels more in the area of hospitality. The homes of our members are open wide for guests from within and beyond our community. Heartbreaking as it may be, we may have to drastically limit guests or insist that people not host at all. Because the situation is so fluid, we are just not sure yet what the guidelines will be when Pesach rolls around.  

As a community service, we are working on a Pesach-in-a-Box option that will allow our members to order all-inclusive pre-prepared Pesach meals for the Seder, Yom Tov meals, or both. We will share the details just as soon as we have them.

Shopping/Ordering

Both national organizations and local retailers have indicated that they are not anticipating any inventory shortages. By way of example, Kosher Market Place, Fairway and Broadway Farms are already well-stocked with Pesach products. We are also exploring the possibility of working with some of our vendors to make prepared foods available for order and pickup at The Jewish Center.

Toveling

The Keilim Mikvah will continue to operate daily from 9am-2pm.

Kashering

We are exploring whether it might be possible to arrange for drop-off kashering at The Jewish Center. In the meantime, we will disseminate resources (text and video) to help you at home. You can already find our Pesach-in-ten-easy-steps guide on our website. And of course you are welcome to call, email or text with any questions. We are here to help.

Maot Chittim

In the weeks leading up to Pesach, we always ask that people contribute Maot Chittim so that those in need can enjoy Pesach with dignity. This year, I worry that the economic impact of coronavirus may leave some individuals and families in particularly dire straits. Please make checks out to the Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung Fund or donate online and earmark your donation with the words: Passover Relief.

Siyum Bechorim

Our siyum this year will take place virtually via Zoom. We will send the details soon.

Yizkor

While it will be difficult not to be in shul for the recitation of Yizkor on the final day of Pesach, please be assured that Yizkor does not require a minyan and may be recited in its entirety at home.

Youth Department Haggadah

The Jewish Center Youth Department is now hard at work on the creation of a Jewish Center Haggadah. Submissions of artwork, divrei torah, poetry, etc. are welcome! If someone in your family would like to get involved or contribute, please email sarah@jewishcenter.org.

Eruv

I am happy to report that the Manhattan Eruv has experienced no disruption.

Mikvah

We are taking a number of important precautions to insure that our Mikvah not only remains open, but conforms to the highest possible standards:

 

-To facilitate social distancing, the Mikvah has moved to an appointment-only model. Please call 212-579-2011 to schedule an appointment.

-We have asked that all preparations take place at home.

-The Mikvah facility and its preparation rooms are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between every use.

-The water in the Mikvah is not only kept clean and safe by an advanced filtration system; the water is also treated with bromine, which the CDC advises “inactivates” the virus that causes COVID-19.

-According to its guidelines, the Mikvah requires that anyone who is unwell, under quarantine, or has been exposed to anyone with a positive COVID-19 test may not come to the Mikvah.

Announcements

I have heard from a number of members that they have been missing the announcements I typically make at the end of services on Shabbat morning. While I confess that this has not been at the top of my priority list, I do want to be responsive. I believe the best solution is this: I will accumulate all of the announcements over the coming weeks and then – on our first Shabbat back in shul – I will read them in their entirety. (Just kidding! I think we all need a little humor to help get through this difficult time….)

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine

Rabbi

 

Update 3/16/2020

Dear Friends,

We are all searching for hope during these dark times. I confess that I have not been much moved by the bromides that have been circulating. But I was moved by a conversation I had yesterday with a Holocaust survivor. He has oriented his life around a philosophy of optimism and hopefulness. And he reassured me that – even if we can’t see it right now –  there will be an end to this madness. He was even thinking positive thoughts about how ultimately this pandemic might end up strengthening the Israel-Diaspora relationship. It was so refreshing to gain a little perspective from someone who had actually lived through something far worse. With God’s help, we’ll make it through this, too.

In a world dominated by fear of a virus, it was his optimism that was contagious. I put down the phone and felt energized about all the opportunities that lay ahead in the coming week. I hope you will join me in seizing them.

On that note, please find below a brief update. The doors to our shul may be closed; but the opportunities before us are wide open.

With warmest regards,

Yosie Levine
Rabbi

 

Torah and Adult Education

All of our classes are migrating to a virtual format. Zoom and google meet will allow our members to join classes either by video conference or phone. Please be on the lookout for an email with further details. Our Daf Yomi is already up and running and meets daily at 7:45am. Login on your computer meet.google.com/feu-rzrb-iyp and click join or dial in by phone: 732-631-4531 and enter pin number: ‪410 132 748#.

Tefillah

·        We continue to daven for all those victimized by coronavirus, but particularly those closest to home. Please keep in mind אברהם שמואל בן רחל as well as גימפל מרדכי דניאל בן שרה איטה.

·        In addition, it is appropriate to insert Avinu Malkeinu into our daily Tefillot. 

·        Finally, we invite you to join us on Zoom for Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday afternoon and Havdallah on Saturday night. Stay tuned for details.

Yahrzeit and Kaddish

If you are saying Kaddish or observing a Yahrzeit, the best solution is to find someone who is in a safe area that still has minyanim to say Kaddish on your behalf. It is not appropriate to search for an existing minyan. As a community service, Congregation Beth Joseph in Greater Phoenix is offering a Kaddish service at http://www.phoenixbethjoseph.org/?page_id=387

Chesed

We have established a committee of volunteers, chaired by Jessica Gross and Chani Segall, to call and check in on older members. We’ve already made hundreds of calls and have members standing by to help with errands. To volunteer, please email jr1445@yahoo.com or chanisegall@aol.com.

A Message to Older Members

With forgiveness, I have been advised by the health department that, with respect to the coronavirus, “older” means those over the age of 60. I have been receiving calls, emails and texts from your children and friends. They sound something like this: 

“Dear Rabbi,

Can you please help. We’ve tried to convince mom to stay put, but you know how stubborn she can be. She prides herself on her independence and insists that doing a couple of errands won’t put her in harm’s way. We’re afraid she just doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation.”

Please: Let someone else do your errands. We have dozens of volunteers who would love nothing more than the opportunity to help. Just reach out to me, Aaron, Jessica Gross (jr1445@yahoo.com) or Chani Segall (chanisegall@aol.com) and everyone will be better off.

Virtual Gatherings

Just because we can’t come together at The Jewish Center doesn’t mean we can’t come together. We will be setting up a series of virtual breakfasts to give people an opportunity to socialize online. Please keep an eye out for an invitation.

Best Practices

We have been inundated with wonderful ideas and suggestions. We have set up a centralized address: suggestions@jewishcenter.org. Among our members are some of the smartest, most thoughtful, most creative minds I know. We would love to harness your energy and channel it into solutions to problems that may not have even occurred to us yet. If you have ideas or have seen best practices at other institutions that could benefit our community, please let us know!

Tzeddakah

In the weeks leading up to Pesach, we always ask that people contribute Maot Chittim so that those in need can enjoy Pesach with dignity. This year, I worry that the economic impact of coronavirus may leave some individuals and families in particularly dire straits. Please make checks out to the Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung Fund or donate online and earmark your donation with the words: Passover Relief.

Youth Department (Please read even if you are a not a parent!)

Our youth director is working on creative materials and ideas that we hope will be helpful to your children and will help supplement the distance learning that they are doing at home through their schools. She has in mind a Mitzvah project, a pen-pal project and lots of other creative ideas. If you have a talent that you would like to share virtually with the youth department (are you an amateur magician, musician, juggler, something else?), please let us know by emailing sarah@jewishcenter.org.

Communication

We are committed to keeping in touch and providing regular communication with our membership. Though most of our staff will be working from home, Aaron and I will be at The Jewish Center and you can reach us at any time.

Pesach

With Pesach just around the corner, we are thinking creatively about ways that we can support our members. Again, if you have ideas, please email suggestions@jewishcenter.org.

Finally, a word of thanks. These difficult times have created enormous strain for all of us. I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank the special people with whom I work: Andrew Borodach and all of our officers and Aaron Strum and the entirety of our professional staff. Under exigent circumstances, they have been working round-the-clock to make and implement decisions that keep us true to our mission as a community even as they focus with abiding compassion on the needs of every individual.

Update: 3/14/2020

Dear Friend,

I am writing to inform you that we have received word of another confirmed case of coronavirus. The individual attended services at The Jewish Center earlier this week. His condition is serious and he currently is hospitalized. We are davening for his complete and swift recovery. 

He attended services at The Jewish Center at the following times:

1.   Sunday morning, March 8 Shacharit at 8:30am (First Floor Auditorium) – He was sitting in the back on the left side (facing toward the bima/stage).

2.   Tuesday morning (Purim), March 10 Shacharit (Main Sanctuary after 8:30am) – He was standing in the back on the left side (facing toward the bima) near the doors leading to the vestibule.

Steps You Can Take

Please review the information described here by the New York State Department of Health to better understand the symptoms and preventative measures we can each take during this time.

If you or anyone in your household (i) exhibits symptoms of coronavirus (such as a cough, fever of over 100.4F or trouble breathing) or (ii) were in close proximity for an extended period of time to the individual described above, please contact your healthcare provider or the New York State Department of Health at the Novel Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.

If you or someone in your family has been in contact with an individual who tested positive for coronavirus or tests positive for coronavirus and have been to The Jewish Center during this period, please notify Aaron Strum, Rabbi Levine or me immediately. This will enable us to provide accurate information to the New York State Department of Health and obtain the best advice.

We also urge you to dramatically reduce your social interactions to the bare minimum to help slow the spread of the disease. It is our collective responsibility to work together to contain this virus.

On a personal note let me add that this was an especially challenging Shabbat, shuttering our shul for Shabbat for what may have been the first time in our more than one-hundred year history. My family and I truly missed not engaging and interacting with our many friends who comprise the Jewish Center family. We daven for those who are ill from the coronavirus and for a speedy resolution to this pandemic; and we look forward to sharing good times together soon. In the meantime, let us together rise to the challenge of these difficult times and ensure that the most vulnerable in our community are well looked after and taken care of. 

Sincerely,

Andrew Borodach, President

Update: 3/13/2020

Dear Friend:

I know that we will not see one another at The Jewish Center this Shabbat. So I wanted to bring a little of The Jewish Center to you. Below, you will find three sections. In the first are three videos. On The Jewish Center calendar, this Shabbat was scheduled to be our Youth Shabbat. Please find two short clips from JC kids (Kira Borodach and Ari Levine) that I hope will lift your spirits. The third video is a short thought for these fraught times. In the second section are some practical suggestions that I thought might be helpful. And in the final section are some links to reading material that may be of interest.

With warmest regards for a Shabbat Shalom,

Yosie Levine

Rabbi

Virtual Youth Shabbat 1

Virtual Youth Shabbat 2

Special Erev Shabbat Message

On Shabbat the Shul was Closed

5 Tips for Friday

1.       Print out something uplifting to read on Shabbat. Here is the one day of the week that we have to focus on our spiritual aspirations. In the absence of communal prayer, let’s think proactively about alternative ways to allow our spirits to soar.

2.       Start Shabbat early. The clocks have changed. Many people are working from home. Most of us are not hosting guests. If there’s a little more time in the day, let’s set a little more aside for Shabbat.

3.       Reach out to someone older or under quarantine. Let them know that they are not alone and that you are thinking of them.

4.       Pick up the phone. Think of some of the people you would normally see over Shabbat and speak with them.

5.       Sing. I know that in my own life, shul is the place where I do the most singing. Join us for a dial-in Kabbalat Shabbat and sing with us. We’ll call in at 6:25pm and start promptly at 6:30pm. Please call 605-468-8011 and enter 201740# when prompted. 

10 Tips for Shabbat

1.      If we can’t daven together literally, let’s at least daven together at the same time. We’ll start our davening at home at 9am. (I promise we’ll end before 11am.)

2.      Please recite this special Tefillah for the victims of the coronavirus.

3.      Say a special משברך for the member of our community who is so desperately in need of our Tefillot. His name is אברהם שמואל בן רחל.

4.      We won’t hear the parsha read in shul this week, but we will still have the opportunity to read it ourselves. One of the oft-overlooked episodes in Ki Tisa is the plague that breaks out in the aftermath of the Golden Calf. Here’s our opportunity to think through just what happened and just what lessons we may be able to apply to our contemporary moment.

5.      This Shabbat is also Parshat Parah, the second of the four special parshiot that we read in the weeks leading to Pesach. Remember to read it as well (Numbers 19:1-22).

6.      Dress for Shabbat. We won’t be in shul, but we can still accord Shabbat the dignity and kavod it so richly deserves by dressing as if we were going to shul. 

7.      Think about someone you miss seeing in shul. Make a mental note to call him/her after Havdalah.

8.      Think about a favorite shul moment from Shabbat morning. 

9.      Our conversation and our mental energy have become entirely consumed by the coronavirus. As Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, Shabbat is a sanctuary in time. We may not be in our literal sanctuary, but we can still use Shabbat to carve out this temporal sanctuary. Conservatively, let’s set aside an hour during which talk and thought of coronavirus is off limits. (And then I would invite you to transport this model into the rest of the week.)

10.  If there are people around your table, ask the oldest person in the room to share a story that you haven’t heard. 

Articles of Interest

Respect the Old - The Atlantic

Turning your home into your synagogue: Lessons from a year in Senegal | Ariel Fisher | The Blogs

Opinion | Pandemics Kill Compassion, Too - The New York Times

Coronavirus And Blaming The Victims

What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus

The Atlantic’s guide to navigating a global pandemic by Haley Weiss

 

Update: 3/12/2020

Dear Friend:

I am writing to you to provide a further update regarding the coronavirus and its impact on The Jewish Center.

Confirmed Coronavirus Case at The Jewish Center
We have confirmed that an attendee of the Young Leadership minyanim this past Shabbat tested positive for coronavirus. The individual attended the Young Leadership Kabbalat Shabbat on the 5th floor on Friday night, March 5, and was at the March 6th Young Leadership Shabbat morning minyan in the Auditorium on the 1st floor from approximately 11:30am to 1:30pm. We send our wishes for a full and speedy recovery to this individual.

Steps You Can Take
Please review the information described here by the New York State Department of Health to better understand the symptoms and preventative measures we can each take during this time.

  1. you or anyone in your household (i) exhibits symptoms of coronavirus (such as a cough, fever of over 100.4F or trouble breathing) or (ii) was at the Young Leadership minyanim this past Shabbat, please contact your healthcare provider or the New York State Department of Health at the Novel Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.

If you or someone in your family has been in contact with an individual who tested positive for coronavirus or tests positive for coronavirus and have been to The Jewish Center during this period, please notify Aaron Strum or one of us immediately. This will enable us to provide accurate information to the New York State Department of Health and obtain the best advice.

Closing our building and suspending all shul functions
Following consultations with the New York State Department of Health and discussions with the leadership of other local Manhattan synagogues, we have decided to close our building and suspend all shul functions – including minyanim – until further notice. Many of our sister synagogues are doing the same. This decision does not come lightly. While shuls are meant to be open every day of the year, safeguarding the health of our community is an even higher priority and we must do everything within our power to protect our members and our community. We hope this extraordinary and unprecedented measure will slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives.

For these efforts to work, we all need to work together. We all have to make an effort to avoid unnecessary contact and encourage social distancing. To that end, we urge all our members and friends to follow the following directives which have already been adopted by our sister synagogues in Bergen County:

  1. All community members are strongly encouraged to work from home, if possible, and to stay home whenever possible.

 

  1. Our members should not attend other minyanim and not form private minyanim in households. This will undermine our communal effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

 

  1. There should be no public celebrations or smachot.

 

  1. People should not have gatherings for Shabbat meals.

 

  1. Shivah visits should be conducted by telephone or video calls.

 

  1. Funerals should be restricted to a small group of family members and a minyan.

 

  1. While the Mikvah will remain open, women under mandatory quarantine or who are experiencing symptoms may not use the mikvah. Of course people should always feel free to call with questions.

Logistical Issues

Anyone who needs to pick up his tallit and tefillin can do so during normal business hours on Thursday or Friday.

Only security and custodial staff will remain in our building. In addition, our building will be professionally cleaned over the next few days. Office staff will work remotely until further notice. If you need to contact the office, please use email as we work to forward phone lines.

For those saying Kaddish, please arrange to have someone say Kaddish for you. We can certainly help facilitate this.

As we have previously communicated, we will continue to offer classes and counseling, even if this must be done remotely.

Communal Continuity

  1. recognize the importance of our institution to the lives of our members, old and young. It is heartbreaking for us to have to come to this difficult decision, but we first and foremost recognize the halakhic imperative of protecting life. Because the situation is fluid, we will reevaluate these decisions on a regular and on-going basis. And of course we commit to communicate with you regularly and transparently.

Let us together rise to the challenge of these difficult times and ensure that the most vulnerable in our community are well looked after and taken care of. The days ahead could be isolating and frightening. Let us all actively daven individually for a speedy resolution to this pandemic.

If we can be of any help, please reach out to us. At the same time, please let us know if you need any assistance or are able to help others.

Dr. Yosie Levine, Rabbi

Andrew Borodach, President

 

Update: 3/9/2020

Dear Friend:

As Purim approaches, we are all concerned about how to balance our health and well-being on the one hand with our halakhic obligations on the other. Of course The Jewish Center has been following the situation closely and we are adhering to the guidelines set forth by trusted national and state agencies to keep everyone safe and healthy.
  
In particular, I wanted to take a moment to share our plans for Purim at The Jewish Center. While all of our minyanim and Megillah readings will take place as scheduled, we recognize that some members of our community may not be able to attend services as they normally would. 

On Purim, we usually encourage participating in communal Megillah readings in accordance with the principle b'rov am hadrat melekh, more honor is accorded to Hashem when we congregate in large numbers. For many people this year, it may be optimal to hear the Megillah is a smaller setting. 

If a person is unwell or self-quarantined, or has been advised not to attend large gatherings, one should read or hear the Megillah at home. Below, I include guidelines shared by the Orthodox Union.

We want to be especially sensitive to the fact that coronavirus may prevent part of our membership from coming to shul - not only on Purim - but in the weeks to come. We will follow up with specifics, but we will need all of our members to step up and take a more active role reaching out to members at home.

As I said this past Shabbat, we will continue to daven every day for those who have been affected. And we’ll continue to daven that this epidemic disappears with the same swiftness with which it appeared. But until that day comes, it’s up to us to make sure those suffering the absence of community at least know that we’re there for them. 

With warmest regards for a Purim Sameach,

Yosie Levine
Rabbi

Message from the Orthodox Union

As we have been instructed by medical and public health experts, the best way to prevent spread of disease is not to keep the well at home, but rather to keep the ill out of public spaces.
Who should stay away from shul on Purim?  Although in different manners, both those who are ill and those who are considered high-risk should they contract illness.   
As such:  Anyone with symptoms of illness, including fever, cough, stomach bug or other sickness, should refrain from coming to shul or other public places and gatherings. This is true even for the reading of Megillah.  If you have doubts, please err on the side of staying home. And if you have such symptoms, please call your doctor before going to the medical office for treatment.  Individuals with such symptoms likely need to be in isolation. Likewise, anyone who had meaningful exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must also maintain isolation.  
On the other hand, the elderly and those with underlying medical issues such as chronic lung problems, the immunocompromised (due to chemotherapy or other immune-modifying medications), and insulin-dependent diabetics who appear to be at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, should discuss their individual medical situation with their provider prior to attending, especially if they have multiple risk factors listed above.  As a rule, these individuals do not need to be in isolation; they may simply need to avoid large crowds.
Those who should not be coming to shul but do not need to be in isolation, should ideally take part in a private Megillah reading.  As in past years, rabbis and communities across the country will do their very best to provide this service to members of their community.  
The clear majority of Halachic authorities do not consider Halachically adequate a Megillah reading heard over the phone or online.  There is however a minority opinion that does allow for this, provided that the reading is live, and not pre-recorded.  Following the Halachic principle that we may rely upon minority opinions under extenuating circumstances – שעת הדחק כדיעבד דמי וכדאי הוא ר״ש לסמוך עליו בשעת הדחק - this minority opinion can be relied upon for those who are in mandated isolation. 
IMPORTANT: Even for those in isolation, the ideal solution is to have a kosher, hand-written Megillah in hand which they read from audibly, either on their own (even without the correct טעמי המקרא, cantillation), or assisted by a reading heard by phone or on-line.  In such situations – as in all situations where there is no Minyan present – the closing Bracha following Megillah reading is not recited.  

To summarize:
Generally healthy individuals should attend public Megillah readings as usual, where the community is exercising the proper precautions.
Those who are not currently ill but are not attending a public reading because they are deemed high risk, should reach out to their Rabbi and community to help arrange a private Megillah reading.
Those who are ill or have had serious exposure and must remain in isolation must not come to shul.  They should ideally have a kosher, hand-written Megillah in hand from which they read audibly, either on their own or assisted by a reading heard electronically.
Those who must be in isolation but are unable to read from a kosher, hand-written Megillah, may fulfill their obligation via hearing a live Megillah reading, by phone or online. 
As a community service, we are providing links to Megillah Readings in each North American time zone that can be accessed by those who are affected by this quarantine.  
 
As a community service, we are providing links to Megillah Readings in each North American time zone that can be accessed by those who are affected by this quarantine.  

We hope and pray that our community and all the world be spared from any harm and any further upheaval, and that all those currently affected be granted a full and speedy recovery. 

Warm wishes for a happy and meaningful Purim.

Update: 3/5/2020

Dear Friend:
We are all on edge about the coronavirus. At a time like this, the role of a shul is particularly important. It reminds us that we are not alone; that others share our values and our concerns; that someone will be there to help in a time of crisis; and that the gates of tefillah are always open.
I want to let you know that The Jewish Center has been following the situation closely and we are adhering to the guidelines set forth by trusted national and state agencies. Because the situation is so fluid, my rabbinic colleagues and I are in touch regularly just as our executive director and lay leaders are in touch with their respective counterparts. Our goal is to strike a balance between caution on the one hand and our best attempt at normalcy on the other. We share best practices in the hope that we can keep everyone safe and healthy.
At The Jewish Center

You will find newly-installed Purell dispensers and placards reminding members and guests about staying healthy.
Our maintenance staff is being especially vigilant to disinfect the building each day.
We are advising against shaking hands to avoid the spread of the virus.
We will continue to daven for those who have been affected and for the success of scientists pursuing a vaccine and a cure. 
Below, please find recommendations for the coming days.
Infection Control Precautions
At all times, notwithstanding the current concerns, the practice of proper hygienic precautions and infection control measures should be a constant priority.

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Cover your cough or sneeze, preferably with a tissue that is immediately disposed of or, minimally, into your sleeve.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Keep a bottle of sanitizer close by for use when you can't immediately wash your hands.
Flu vaccination is still indicated. By not getting or transmitting the flu, you will not only save lives, you will help doctors who will have fewer patients to evaluate with unknown respiratory illnesses.

Staying Away From Communal Gatherings
If you have not traveled to an area where coronavirus is prevalent or been in close contact with a traveler, and you develop respiratory symptoms, it remains likely that you have a seasonal illness like the flu rather than coronavirus.
However, it is extremely important that if anyone has symptoms of illness, including fever, coughing, stomach bug or any other sickness, that they refrain from coming to shul or other communal gatherings, either during the week or on Shabbat. [This is true even for someone saying Kaddish.] Protecting and preserving communal health supersedes other considerations.
Travelers
The CDC has issued travel advisories for China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. If in the previous 14 days you have traveled to any of these locations (or any other location the CDC includes, should the list be expanded) or been in close contact with someone who has traveled to any of these places, we ask that you not enter the premises of The Jewish Center.

Zachor and Purim
If you are unwell or self-quarantined and will not be in shul for Shabbat Zachor or for the Megillah on Purim, please be in touch with me and I will be happy to help you find the best halakhic remedy.
Mikvah
The West Side Mikvah asked that I share the following:
 
The West Side Mikvah is monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and is taking certain steps to prevent the spread of this illness, in accordance with the recommendations of the CDC and upon the advice of various doctors including Rabbi Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, Chairman, Department of Medicine, Chief Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiologist, Mount Sinai South Nassau.
 
Please do not go to the mikvah with any symptoms of illness, including fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and upper respiratory infection.
Updates
Because the situation has been so fluid, please understand that these are constantly evolving guidelines. We encourage you to monitor the CDC website at www.cdc.gov for updated information.
 
May Hashem answer all of our tefillot and bring a speedy end to this virus. And to paraphrase the Megillah, may these difficult days quickly be transformed into days of relief and good tidings.

Update: 3/2/2020

The Jewish Center has been monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) that first emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year, and has now spread to Europe, South America, Israel and even the United States. We hope that the coronavirus transmission is reduced in the coming days ahead, and that all those who have fallen ill have a speedy recovery. 
However, as the virus spreads and out of an abundance of caution, we are taking proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of our community. We are monitoring the situation and obtain regular updates from the New York City Department of Health and the CDC. In order to plan for a potential appearance of the virus in the New York City area, we are taking certain steps with immediate effect, which are based on the current CDC recommendation of focusing on general illness prevention:

Our maintenance staff is being especially vigilant to disinfect the building each day.
We are purchasing Purell dispensers to place throughout the building, which will be regularly refilled. While washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is best, hand sanitizer will be available as well.
We are asking that, if you recently traveled to countries significantly affected by the coronavirus (including China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Italy), you not enter the premises of The Jewish Center for a period of 14 days beginning from the date of your return. In addition, if you have come into close personal contact with someone (for example, a family member residing in your household) who recently returned from any of these areas, this restriction also applies.

In order to reduce the spread of illness, we recommend the following best practices at home:

Wash hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. It is often helpful to tell young children to keep soaping through two singings of ABC to give them a sense for the 20 second time frame.
If you are using sanitizer, which is second best to washing, please make sure it has at least a 60% alcohol content.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough with a tissue or something other than your hand.
Disinfect commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets, handheld electronic devices, and bathroom surfaces.
If you feel ill, have a fever or develop any respiratory or flu-like symptoms, seek immediate care from your physician and stay at home and avoid contact with others.

Thank you for working with us to create a healthy and safe environment for our community.

Fri, April 3 2020 9 Nisan 5780