Update on Shuls and Yeshivos Around the Country

shuls closed coronavirus
Agudas Yisrael of Baltimore shul. (Google Maps)

Coronavirus has affected the very fabric of our lives, with closures of schools and shuls, cancellations of almost all social events, and curtailing of simchos. Bikur Cholim organizations are cutting back services and eliminating hospital visitations, and other organizations of gemilas chessed are evaluating how to continue their services in the best manner.

Those institutions that have remained open are sending out notices reminding everyone of proper hygiene habits and warning the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those who are not feeling well, to remain home.

Many schools are trying to conduct various forms of distance learning so that limud haTorah can continue, reminding their talmidim to daven each day.

Nevertheless, with the children home, it is clearly challenging for many families. In addition to trying to encourage their children to spend their time in a worthwhile manner, there is the challenge of their own parnassos as well, for if the children are home, how can the parents go to work?

The situation is affecting those in Eretz Yisrael as well, as yeshivos and chadarim are also closed. Mothers are trying their best to cope with the situation in a positive manner. As one determined mother commented, “I always felt I should spend more time with my children; now is my opportunity to learn how to home-school them!”

Below is a partial list of the situations of various communities, as of Monday morning, March 16.

Atlanta:

As on Sunday evening, Beth Jacob of Atlanta announced, “Following a meeting with world-class epidemiologists and physicians, and after carefully examining all the variables – leaving no stone unturned and painstakingly analyzing every possibility in an attempt to maintain our campus as a communal epicenter of avodas Hashem (service of G-d) – we have made the very difficult and painful decision not to hold any minyanim or Torah classes on our campus until further notice.This is effective immediately.”

Rabbi Dovid Kapenstein, Executive Director of Kollel Ner Hamizrach, stated, “There is a high level of anxiety and fear caused by the coronavirus. I think most people were able to deal with their concerns better until the day school announced that it is closing and many of the shuls announced that there won’t be a kiddush or shalosh seudos. These announcements increased everyone’s fears that we could be soon told to simply not go to shul at all. Parents are greatly challenged by childcare issues and numerous people in the community have had their parnassah adversely affected.”

Baltimore:

Schools are closed. Various forms of remote learning are being arranged- whether through call-in conference classes, prerecorded shiurim that can be listened to at any time, and/or worksheets sent home.

Rabbi Shimon Hirsch, Menahel of Yeshivas Kochav Yitzchok/Torah Institute of Baltimore, commented, “Through the hashgachah of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, the shuls and schools are closed and the talmidim are davening and learning at home. Rebbeim are continuing their mesorah through different options to ensure that the davening and learning continues. These weeks have always been used to prepare our homes for the wonderful Yom Tov of Pesach. Besides the cleaning, this year we have the opportunity to infuse our homes with limud haTorah and tefillos as we await the time of the Geulah Shleimah”

Rabbi Zalman Nissel, Chief Executive Officer of Bais Yaakov of Baltimore, wrote

I have been asked how we at Bais Yaakov of Baltimore, a school of over 1,700 talmidos ba”h, have dealt with the challenges relating to the coronavirus. In response, I share the approach we’ve taken over the past few days and some brief reflections.

“Prior to describing our hishtadlus, I start my comments with the clear recognition that there is a reason that this is occurring, and we look towards our Einei ha’eidah, our Rabbanim and Manhigim who will guide us in whatever understanding we can attain.

“In coordination with the Baltimore Vaad HaRabbonim, medical professionals and following the recommendations of the Governor of Maryland, Baltimore schools have worked closely to develop a joint approach to handling this serious situation. We made the difficult decision to close school beginning this week. The Governor mandated that all Maryland public schools remain closed and has recommended that private schools do the same. The medical situation is continuously changing, but we will stay closed as long as medically indicated. As always, the safety of our students, staff and every member of our community is our highest priority.

“We understand how disruptive closing the school is as we approach this unprecedented situation. We are extremely troubled by the impact on our dedicated staff, committed parents and cherished students, but feel that the right decision was made.

“During the closure, our goal is to provide our Moros the ability to maintain their close relationship with their talmidos and continue providing them with warmth, encouragement and inspiration through this difficult period. We worked hard to provide as many communication options as possible from which the educators could choose to fulfill their specific and unique student communication needs. Staff will continue to work with the educators as we move forward into these uncharted waters. Our business and development operations remain open, making sure the school can continue to operate.

“The school takes extremely seriously the feelings of the parents, many of whom are not able to work because either their offices are closed, or they must be home with their children. Our hearts go out to our dedicated and devoted Moros and our most worthy students who work so hard and will miss the camaraderie of their peers as well as the warmth of their Moros’ lessons. We will iy”H re-open our doors as soon as we are provided medical clearance. Finally, we are mispallel for all of the cholim for a refuah sheleimah min haShamayim b’karov.

“Please join us as we are mispallel to Hashem that our efforts are successful and that He continues to watch over Klal Yisrael and we are bentched with His brachos and mazal.

“Thanks to the efforts of Councilman Yitzy Schleifer, there will be a free kosher lunch program available for children under 18 years old, with boxed lunches being distributed at Bnos Yisroel beginning on Monday, March 16, on a drive-through basis.

“As of Monday, the Vaad Harabbanim announced that all shuls should close. Some shuls encouraged members to daven from home at set times, and many shiurim are being arranged online or by tele-conferencing.

California:

A member of the Los Angeles community reported on Sunday afternoon: The Pico area has been hit hard and all shuls there are closed. All the elementary schools in the city are closed as of tomorrow (Monday, March 15). All dinners are canceled. There has been panic buying as well, basic cleaning supplies and household sanitary needs are not available anywhere. Everyone is on edge regarding expected travel in and out for Pesach, with many people expecting large numbers of family to arrive and not knowing if this will still be possible.”

Later on Sunday, it was confirmed that the Rosh Kollel of one of the local kollelim, one of the yungeleit, and a Maggid Shiur in a local mesivta were confirmed positive for coronavirus, hitting the heart of the Torah community. Bais Yaakov of Los Angeles announced its closure.

Chicago:

Schools are closing as of Tuesday, March 17, in compliance with an order from the governor of Illinois. Each school is formulating a plan to enable its talmidim to learn during this period.

The Associated Talmud Torahs stated, “In response to the school closures in our community, The Associated Talmud Torahs will be hosting a session this evening (Sunday evening) for the community parents with a panel of our schools’ social workers. The discussion will focus on responding positively to the unexpected changes and uncertainty that are impacting our community, specifically in our homes”.

The community will be offering meals for breakfast and lunch for drive-through pickup, for anyone 18 and under.

The Chicago Rabbinical Council sent out a letter on March 15 stating that shuls in the Chicago area should close, effective immediately; individuals should daven at home, shiurim should be conducted by phone or videoconferencing, non-essential gatherings for children and adults should be canceled, simchos should be limited or postponed, to be celebrated publicly when safe to do so.

They wrote, “Tefillah b’tzibbur is being curbed to protect the very life of that tzibbur. We recognize the emotional impact of this decision, which must be considered in terms of the lives it can save. This is a weighty and unprecedented short-term decision to protect life and allow us to continue our regular routines in the long run, l’orech Yamim Tovim…while we may refrain from going to shul, now in particular is a time to strengthen our tefillah. While we may not meet in a beis medrash, we must rededicate ourselves to Talmud Torah. As we increase the physical distance between us, now more than ever we come together as families, and as a united community.”

Cincinnati:

Schools are closed and most shuls are closed as well. Congregation Zichron Eliezer is open for minyanim and shiurim only, with social distancing and required hand-washing upon entering, and no children under 12.

Cleveland:

Rabbi Simcha Dessler, Menahel of Beis Chinuch Horav Dessler, Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, stated: “In compliance with the mandate of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to close Ohio’s schools for three weeks due to coronavirus, Beis Chinuch Horav Dessler/ Hebrew Academy of Cleveland will suspend its classes, but student instruction and engagement will continue by shifting to call-in learning communities. Every Rebbi, Morah, and General Studies teacher will continue their teaching during this tekufah. There is much to learn and it is our hope that all our families will take full advantage of every opportunity.

.

“From preschool through high school, the mechanchim and mechanchos of our mosad — the heroes and heroines on the front lines of harbotzas Torah— rose to the occasion in the most beautiful manner. They were energized and motivated, arriving early and staying well into the night, to provide curriculum, packets, Haggados, work sheets and supplementary material so as not to disrupt Talmud Torah. May the tinokos shel bais rabban, upon which the world stands, soon regroup in school, healthy and well.”

Other schools are closing as well. As of Sunday evening, many shuls remain open

The community has set up a centralized response and command center, with a dedicated email for all coronavirus questions. Schools have closed, but as of Monday morning, shuls remained operational, with recommendations to spread out mispallelim over a large area to enable social distancing, and for extra effort in proper cleaning and hygiene.

Dallas

Ohr HaTorah of Dallas has closed and is arranging virtual shiurim at tefillah gatherings. Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum, Mara d’Asra, wrote in a letter to his kehillah, “We are in a unique, almost unprecedented time. That means our avodah is going to be unique and almost unprecedented. Usually our avodah is to come to shul, and now our avodah is to stay home. We will take this on a week-to-week basis. “

Congregation Toras Chaim of Dallas is closed and conducting shiurim online.

Detroit: Schools have closed.

Denver:

Currently, Hillel Academy of Denver announced that they will be closed on Monday and Tuesday. Some shuls have closed. Congregation Zera Avraham, Yeshiva Toras Chaim, Bais Yaakov of Denver, and the Denver Community Kollel remain open, but with various precautions and restrictions, such as limited access for children.

Greater Washington

Greater Washington Community Kollel has suspended all in-person classes and program, but have opened a virtual beis medrash.

Torah Day School of Greater Washington wrote to their parents last week, : “In keeping with Governor Hogan’s announcement that Maryland schools should close from March 16 – March 27 and the decisions of other Silver Spring and Baltimore Jewish Day Schools, we have made the difficult decision to close school after Friday’s classes for the next two weeks…This decision is particularly gut-wrenching right after Purim. Chazal tell us that the salvation at that time was due to the tefillos and Talmud Torah of children. Closing school will, very likely, put limits on the davening and Torah study of our youngsters. Nevertheless, we plan to partner with you to help keep our boys’ and girls’ connections to avodas Hashem strong during this time.”

Monsey – Some schools and some shuls are closed.

Montreal:

Schools have closed, as per government mandate. Rebbeim are holding classes in private homes. Most shuls are still open.

Social distancing is encouraged, and traveling is highly discouraged. A letter from the Vaad HaRabbanim of Montreal stated, “No one should be travelling outside Canada unless it is absolutely critical. In particular, this means no travel to and from New York City and the surrounding area. If you do travel outside the country, you should self-quarantine for 14 days upon your return…..”

Passaic

Yeshiva Ner Boruch – Passaic Torah Institute, has taken their shiurim online.

As of Sunday, March 15, the Rabbanim of the community announced the closure of all shuls.

Schools have closed. A community task force has been set up to coordinate and disseminate information and guidelines to the community.

Phoenix:

As of Monday morning, schools have closed, but shuls are still open.

South Florida:

All schools closed and are training the teachers for online/distance learning. Out-of-town students from the yeshivah high schools have been sent home. Many shuls are closed, but some remain open.

In Belle Harbor, the Rav of The Shul of Belle Harbor has tested positive for coronavirus. Symptoms are considered mild, and baruch Hashem, he is doing well under quarantine. The shul building was professionally cleaned, and all shul activities have been temporarily suspended. All those who have been in close contact with the Rav are urged to self-quarantine and contact their physicians for more immediate advice.

Toronto:

A community member reported: “Many shuls have closed and the ones open are practicing very strict rules. Most of the schools are closed and the only ones open have canceled English studies because the teachers are not coming. While known cases in the frum community seem to be still unheard of, baruch Hashem, the community is taking the caution very seriously. In our shul, there have been strict protocols put in place and shiurim are being offered by Zoom conferencing, if someone does not want to come or is in self-quarantine. Many people have adopted for self-quarantine because they have recently been to New York or Eretz Yisrael. All day care and playgroups are shut.”