Riverdale Community COVID-19 Response Letter

March 13, 2020 – 17 Adar 5780
Dear Riverdale Community,

We write to you as community partners in an unprecedented time, as we consider our role in the health of our neighborhood, city and nation in a global pandemic. In this health crisis, we consider it our halakhic (Jewish law) and moral duty to do what is in our control to slow the spread of COVID-19. We, like all of you, have received a real-time education on the public health benefits of “social distancing” and precautionary quarantines. We are also aware of the significant risks posed to the physical, emotional and psychological health of community members forced into isolation. Therefore, we will be moving forward, collectively and individually, with an “essential services” model guiding our decisions and practice.

All ​Riverdale congregations​ and ​organizations​, beginning this weekend, will be closed for all ​tefillah​ (prayer) services and all in-person learning and social activities due to the possible threat to human life (​safek pikuach nefesh​). We will reevaluate this heavyhearted decision as we move forward. We know that this decision is difficult for many members of our community, especially those reciting ​kaddish.​ At this time, the very real possible threat to human life overrides the value and obligation of ​tefillah b’tzibbur (communal prayer).

During this time, we will increase our support, guidance, and resources for community members in need. Additionally, we strongly encourage everyone to continue davening privately at home, as our clergy will be doing, at the same times as communal prayer would take place, and to continue praying for all those affected by the virus.

We implore every member of our community (adults and children) to strictly practice social distancing even after the quarantines end and to leave their homes only for essential needs.

Riverdale Jewish day schools ​have moved to online learning platforms and are currently closed, even as many in our community will emerge from precautionary quarantines.

The Riverdale Y​ will remain open to provide government mandated and essential services to our community members, following all directives of New York State and New York City. There will be significant changes to schedules and programs in order to ensure necessary social distancing. Please check the Riverdale Y website for regular updates.

The Riverdale Mikvah​ will move to an appointment only model every night. Please call the mikvah ahead of time so usage can be staggered thereby ensuring the safest possible fulfillment of this essential practice. Please do all Mikvah preparation at home. If you or anyone in your household has a fever, respiratory symptoms or experiencing any signs of illness, we ask that you not make use of the mikvah at this time. If you are in quarantine, you may not go out to use the Mikvah.

With prayers for strength and healing for all and gratitude for the partnership of our Riverdale Jewish community,

Rabbi Steven Exler, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale – The Bayit Deann Forman, The Riverdale Y
Rabbi Aaron Frank, Kinneret Day School
Rabbi Thomas Gardner, Riverdale Temple
Rabbi Shmuel Hain, YIOZ of North Riverdale/Yonkers
Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, SAR High School
Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Yeshivat Maharat
Rabbi Barry Dov Katz, Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, SAR Academy
Rabbi Jonathan Kroll, SAR High School
Rabbi Dov Lerea, Congregation Beth Aharon
Rabbi Dov Linzer, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
Rabbi Dan Margulies, The Riverdale Minyan
Rosh Kehilah Dina Najman, The Kehilah of Riverdale Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Chabad of Riverdale
Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn, Congregation Tehillah Rabbi Dovid Zirkind, Riverdale Jewish Center