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Updated OU Guidance for Synagogues/Communities

03/16/2020 02:36:06 PM

Mar16

Rabbi Friedman

The following are our most current, recommended policies for shuls and communities, as of Monday March 16, 2020. The situation, of course, continues to evolve at a rapid pace and thus these guidelines are formulated based solely on currently available information and advice. Significant developments have compelled this updating of the guidelines we issued on Friday March 13.

The Orthodox Union has convened a highly sophisticated medical advisory panel. The panel is comprised of Infectious Disease and Public Health specialists from across the country, and is providing the necessary expertise and guidance.

In consideration of the advice of the medical advisory panel, the following policies reflect the guidance of our Poskim, HaRav Hershel Schachter שליט״א and HaRav Mordechai Willig שליט״א.

As always, shuls and communities must strictly follow the guidelines provided by local and national authorities, including the CDC and local health departments.

In all communities – whether or not there are local confirmed cases of individuals suffering with the Coronavirus – all shuls and minyanim must be closed. Individuals may not attend shuls that remain open, nor convene minyanim in homes or other indoor or outdoor venues.

We encourage shuls to use both readily available and creative technological means to retain virtually their character as a kehilla, including continuing davening and learning together. We similarly encourage Torah Study Shiurim and Sedarim to continue virtually according to their established schedules. At times like this, it is critical that our Torah and Tefillah increase, rather than the opposite. Families and individuals should aspire to turn this period of challenges into an opportunity to bring more Torah and Tefillah into the home.

Public gatherings and Smachot may not take place. Weddings and funerals should be limited to a basic minyan. Brit Milah should be held privately, and Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations postponed.

Though not attending in person, family, friends and invited guests should connect in any other manner and bring meaningful joy to the Baalei Simcha, or comfort to mourners, who are certainly experiencing significant difficulty and disappointment.

Social distancing is critical. People should maintain physical distance from others outside their homes, and should limit shopping trips, sending only one person on those trips.

At the same time, it is important to get fresh air and exercise. Go outside, but avoid and maintain significant distance from others.

While we must physically isolate, it is critical that we use all means of virtual communication to connect to friends and family members outside our homes and community.

In particular, it is more important than ever to ensure that those living alone have strong virtual social contact and are consistently communicated with and cared for.

Children and young, “low risk” individuals should practice these measures exactly as others.

We must emphasize that we are all dealing with limited data on a new virus and we are being as protective as possible in the absence of data. We are trying as hard as possible to protect people. The guidance provided such as closing shuls and minyanim is extremely painful but necessary, and is advice that none of us ever dreamt we would have to issue.

We reiterate that the measures that this pandemic have forced our community to adopt are exceptionally painful. Though we embrace and celebrate the Torah’s directive to take extraordinary steps to protect our health and those around us, we are simultaneously deeply pained by the absence of Torah and Tefillah from so many of our shuls. We encourage everyone to redouble their efforts in the spheres of Torah study and Tefillah, and to seize this challenge as an opportunity to create in our own homes a presence of meaningful Tefillah and shared Torah study.

Fri, August 14 2020 24 Av 5780