Social Distancing Riverdale Jewish Community Letter

Dear Riverdale Jewish Community,


As the coronavirus crisis grows, we consider it our most basic duty to share the further guidelines for us all to practice to help save lives – to best ensure the welfare of each of us and each other.  This document was prepared by doctors and community representatives based on national guidelines.


Social Distancing: At first, COVID appeared to be limited to certain travelers or individuals.  It has now spread randomly in the community.  Please keep this in mind as you read the information that follows.


To slow the spread of COVID-19, the CDC has encouraged us all to practice “social distancing.” Social distancing is a public health strategy that aims to reduce the encounters healthy people have with those who have a communicable disease like COVID-19.  Remember, more than 80% of people with COVID-19 will not have symptoms or the illness will be very mild.  Additionally, there are also people who think they have the flu or a cold, but actually have COVID-19. These people will be walking around with COVID-19 and it can be spread directly to you if they cough or sneeze. Additionally, the virus will be on their hands and passed to door knobs, counter tops, etc.  By keeping your distance from others, you decrease your chances of being exposed.


Please read and consistently follow the guidelines below.  More information and background follows at the end of the document.


May we be blessed with healing and strength,

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, 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 Joseph Robinson, Riverdale Jewish Community      Partnership (an initiative of Riverdale Y)
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Chabad of Riverdale
Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn, Congregation Tehillah
Rabbi Dovid Zirkind, Riverdale Jewish Center


Social Distancing Guide

Below is a quick guide to what you should not do, what you should do with caution (remembering the 6-foot rule and washing or sanitizing your hands frequently) and things you can do with relative safety.


Please note: the following guidelines apply to those who are feeling healthy, have no underlying “at risk“ conditions, and are younger than 60 years old, based evidence of those who are at higher risk from COVID-19.  If you are sick, have one of the “at risk“ conditions, or are 60 years old or older, CDC’s and other guidelines are clear that you should stay at home. This more restrictive approach for these populations, especially people older than 60 who feel healthy and well, can be tremendously burdensome and challenging. But we truly view this as what each of us can do to help save lives.


Do not:

  • Gather in groups, including for such life cycle events as weddings and funerals, and home or synagogue minyanim
  • Have sleepovers or playdates or hang out with friends (of any age)
  • Play sports with non-household family members
  • Have meals with friends and neighbors
  • Do any non-essential driving with others (except household members not in quarantine)
  • Have non-essential visitors or workers in your home
  • Spend too much time in stores or places of business for any reason, get in and out as soon as possible
  • Go to malls or crowded stores

Do with caution:

  • Shop for groceries quickly and not in crowded stores, and shop during off peak hours when the stores are less crowded; opt for delivery by phone or utilize internet orders if possible
  • Pick up a prescription at a pharmacy (if you cannot arrange for delivery)
  • Go to work only if you must

In each of the above cases, try to keep to the 6-foot rule, wash or sanitize your hands frequently (especially as soon as you get home) and consider changing and washing your clothing upon returning home

Safe to do:

  • Go for a walk or a run.  Even if you live in an apartment building you can go outside and get some fresh air (keep in mind the 6-foot rule, and wash your hands frequently)
  • Ride a bike
  • Play in the backyard with household members not on isolation (if you live in a house), or sit outside on your balcony (if you live in an apartment)
  • Go for a drive with household members (if not in quarantine)
  • Cook a meal or bake together as a family
  • Work from home
  • Exercise at home
  • Meditate
  • Connect with others by phone, text, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom

Please note: since this letter was complete, one additional guideline has been added (language taken from the Orthodox Union’s synagogue communications):


Many individuals – including thousands of students – are returning to their communities from areas with active communal transmission – including Israel, New York and New Jersey. These individuals should practice separation for 14 days in the family home, having a separate room for sleeping, a separate bathroom if possible, and otherwise keeping a safe distance. They should not be the ones doing the shopping trips or any ventures out into the community until they have been home for 14 days symptom-free.


We advise strongly against those returning from such areas – as well as all grandchildren – kissing or hugging or having other close contact with elderly grandparents or others considered high risk from COVID-19.


With regard to what specific steps to take within the family home to separate those returning from the other members of the family, parents should consult with their own medical advisors and should adhere to all governmental, public health and local medical guidelines for how to practice separation for returnees from areas of active transmission. Many local synagogues and communities are helping members to be informed and connected to appropriate sources of guidance.



1) What does it mean to be in isolation?

In isolation, you should have no contact with anyone unless absolutely necessary.  This is reserved for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 because they have the greatest likelihood of spreading the disease.

2) What does it mean to be in quarantine?

Quarantine is in order when someone has been exposed to COVID-19.  Because people can transmit the disease before they have symptoms, in quarantine you should restrict yourself to your home and have contact only with individuals in your home.  You should do your best to stay 6 feet from each other and you should not share utensils, beds, cups, etc. with them.

3) So how does social distancing differ from quarantine?

Quarantine is when you are restricted to your home and can be in contact only with those living there with you.  Social distancing allows for minimal movement in the community if you focus on reducing contact with others.  One of the main ways of doing this is by avoiding events and crowds, reducing meetings and other gatherings to a few members, working from home with video and phone meetings as necessary, and keeping a safe distance of 6 feet with anyone you are with for longer than 6 minutes.

If you do go out, try to stay 6 feet away from others.  If you live in an apartment, try not to touch handrails or other items in the stairwell and avoid crowded elevators.  In all cases, use hand sanitizer frequently and wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you return.

Not easy, we know!!  But during this uncertain time, when we are all looking for ways to help out and keep our community, friends and loved ones healthy, social distancing is something simple we can all do.  It is a selfless act that saves lives.

4) How is the Coronavirus spread?

COVID-19 appears to be spread via respiratory droplets, and mainly from person to person. This means that with a cough or a sneeze the viral particles may directly spread to another person or fall to the surrounding surfaces or the ground. The particles travel generally no more than 6 feet, therefore the “six feet rule.”  The virus can live on some surfaces for many hours, so someone who touches those surfaces and then touches their face, especially their eyes, nose and mouth, may introduce the virus into their system.  That is why cleaning surfaces, frequent hand washing and minimizing touching the face is crucial.

5) Where can I learn how to protect myself and more about social distancing?

The CDC has a very clear website on actions to be taken to protect yourself and your family.  The recommendations on this site are very much a part of what social distancing is about.

Click here to view this useful web page.  Additional information about COVID19 and social distance from the New York City Department of Health can be found here.