A Message from the WJC COVID-19 Task Force
Dear WJC Family:
The spread of COVID-19 in our extended Jewish community and around the globe has disrupted our lives. The uncertainty of the disease, its effects, and long-term consequences have created anxiety for many. We wanted to share the precautionary measures we are taking, given what is known about how the disease spreads. Late last week we formed a WJC COVID-19 task force, which includes leadership and public health and medical professionals. Our team is monitoring the situation very closely and has been in constant communication and holding regular conference calls. WJC leadership is in touch with health authorities, including Westchester and New York State Departments of Health, who provide updates and guidance.
Our approach to decision-making weighs our desire to prioritize health and safety, while minimizing, when possible, anxiety, alarm, and harms to quality of life. We are taking the following steps to manage the situation:
- Based on our regular contact with the Westchester County Department of Health, we are adhering to their guidance, which so far uniformly affirms our plan to remain open. We are prepared to change our approach in response to evolving guidance as necessary.
- There are currently no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 among our members, and to our knowledge, no symptoms within our immediate synagogue community. As of March 8, 2020, we have a handful of members and 4 religious school teachers who are under voluntary 14-day quarantine due to being in the same place as someone who contracted COVID-19.
- At this time, we are planning to hold all Purim services as scheduled. We are, however, canceling Israeli dancing and basketball due to close physical contact required for those activities. We have been deciding about holding other specific events, so please keep your eye on email from WJC. As you can tell, this a quickly evolving situation, and circumstances could change in a moment’s notice. On a daily basis, our cleaning crew is undertaking enhanced cleaning. The staff is disinfecting high-touch surfaces, railings, doors, water fountains, bathrooms, mezuzot, and all other open and clean surface areas. We will ensure that soap dispensers are full, and we will have some hand sanitizers, though supply is very limited. We encourage you to bring and use your own hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol for more frequent use and to help our supplies last.
- We will be opening up space in rooms to allow you to sit further apart during services and activities.
- As noted last week, the Religious School is canceled through March 17. Our plan, at this time, is to reopen Religious School and all Electives on Wednesday, March 18. This is due to select staff being on quarantine. Our ECC remains open.
Should you come to WJC?
- If you or anyone in your household is not feeling well or is showing any signs of a fever, cold, or respiratory illness, please keep your entire family home. Please recognize that the threshold for staying home is very low, and we ask that you err on the side of caution.
- If you are a member of a “high risk” group (including elderly and those with an underlying medical condition, see HERE), we strongly encourage you to stay home as you are at an increased risk of becoming acutely ill if infected with COVID-19. We realize that staying home is difficult and we will miss you; however, your health, and the health of our community, is paramount.
- We recognize that it is a personal decision for everyone whether to attend, not attend, or attend for part of services or activities. Please respect everyone’s decisions in this regard, as people have different risk tolerance levels and preferences and personal health risk.
- The Department of Health continues to be consistent in its guidance regarding the issue of “secondary exposure.” The self-quarantine applies only to people who were in the same place as an infected person. People who have come into contact with secondary exposures (including their family members, classmates, other WJC members, and staff) are not considered to be at risk and are supported in their decision to attend work, school, or synagogue, provided they are asymptomatic.
What precautions should I take while at WJC?
- Please refrain from physical greetings (handshakes, fist bumps, hugs, kisses). Instead, consider the “slight bow,” “wave,” or “heart tap.” Also try to maintain distance in your seating arrangement during services or activities.
- Please refrain from kissing the Torah and mezuzot.
- During Kiddush, please take extra precautions around food tables (use napkins when holding serving utensils, take what you touch, sanitize hands before eating, etc.).
- Please keep a close eye on your younger children to help them practice good hygiene, especially around the food tables during Kiddush.
- Please notify David Goldstein if a member of your family is ill or quarantined (by choice or forced) for COVID-19, so we can track this as best as possible in our community and take extra precautions as needed at WJC, or if you need a meal or other assistance. David can be reached by calling the shul office, (914) 698-2960 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- We are working on live-streaming services, so please look for our additional announcements for those who wish to participate remotely.
- Continue reinforcing the practice of washing hands and not touching the face with your friends and family. That, along with keeping a healthy distance from other people, seem to be the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus, just like with the regular flu.
If you have any urgent questions about COVID-19 itself, call the Westchester County hotline: 211. They will have up-to-date information and guidance. NYS Department of Health also has a hotline: (888) 364-3065.
- If you think you are symptomatic, do not go to the emergency room. You must call ahead before arrival to avoid putting others at risk. You may also call your doctor for guidance.
- Other important and helpful links:
For most of us, this is serious, but not dangerous. Your role is critical because protecting public health is a group effort that takes massive cooperation. The way you think about this and talk to others about it can either encourage or discourage cooperation. Please try to encourage each other. Find a source of information you can trust. Ask questions. Listen to science. Use common sense and compassion. Don’t let fear make you cynical. Don’t let cynicism numb your sense of responsibility to other people.
Stay connected, just not too close. Hang in there and wash your hands. We are a strong community and will do our part to keep each other healthy and safe. We thank you for your understanding and partnership. We will continue updating you as we have new information.
Wishing a refuah shlemah to all who are ill and praying for health in all our communities and the world at large.
Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz
Seth Schafler, President
David Goldstein, Executive Director
WJC COVID-19 Task Force