RJCP Letter: Gatherings of 10

May 22, 2020

Dear Riverdale Jewish Community,

The leadership of the RJCP seeks to care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing of all of our members, as well as the Riverdale community at large. Likewise, we are committed to continuing to work together to help survive and thrive in this coronavirus time as our realities and guidelines from city and state governments continue to evolve.

We acknowledge the governor’s announcement allowing socially distant gatherings of 10 persons or fewer for religious services, and we recognize how central prayer and reconnecting in shared space is to our spiritual and emotional wellbeing. In the near future, some may wish to avail themselves of this opportunity, cautiously and carefully, with preparation and thoughtfulness.

As such, and in concert with recommendations and adopted practices of many other communities and synagogue organizations, we have agreed to prepare to begin to reopen for these 10-person or less organized services or gatherings on Thursday, June 4 (two weeks from the announcement).  Some of our partners may choose to wait beyond that time, but we will not begin to reopen any sooner. We strongly advise that this decision extend to private indoor and outdoor religious gatherings until guidelines and protocols have been developed.

Our partnership is diligently working to gather the appropriate information from government officials and our health professionals to prepare clear and reasonable guidelines for the reopening process. Among the issues under consideration for the health and well being of all are plans for:

  • Frequency of services
  • Confirming the health of participants.
  • Understanding what social distance means in a prayer setting.
  • How to work with maintenance staff to ensure hygiene.
  • Accommodating the needs of those who are vulnerable.
  • The involvement of all individuals irrespective of gender.
  • Liability issues. 

Even as we begin to open prayer spaces, we will be guided by state/city and local protocols, to ensure the well-being of all who participate. Of course, we stand ready to pull back as medical or physical safety require. We will communicate further guidelines and our plans for reopening as soon as possible.

We know how hard people have been working to maintain social distance and strongly encourage maintaining the basic health and safety recommendations of 6 feet, masks, and handwashing. We know the toll that this takes on all of us as we navigate our own specific situations. We hope and pray that this first phase will bring continued health and restoration and will be able to extend to additional phases when possible. We continue to pray for health and strength and to respond with resolve and safety as a community.

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Steven Burton, Congregation Shaarei Shalom
Rabbi Steven Exler, HIR – 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
Rabbi Simon Hirschhorn and Rabbi Noah Aronin, Hebrew Home at Riverdale
Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Yeshivat Maharat
Rabbi Barry Dov Katz, CSAIR
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 Joseph Robinson, RJCP (an initiative of the Riverdale Y)
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Chabad of Riverdale
Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn, Congregation Tehillah
Rabbi Dovid Zirkind, Riverdale Jewish Center
Rabbi Bob Kaplan, JCRCNY