Town Hall meeting

On May 10th, 2020, we had a town hall meeting with Dr. Todd Silverman and Dr. Daniella Hermelin on re-opening and looking to the future. Please watch the video of listern to the audio.

Conference with Dr. Storch

On March 18, 2020, we had an vitally important public conversation with Dr. Greg Storch on the current situation, with his advice regarding visitors, travel, and much more. Please watch the video or listen to the audio (the actual audio starts at the 3:46 minute mark).

A Note from Rabbi Shulman about COVID-19

We have reached that point in our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community that it behooves us to take the next step and close the doors of Young Israel to all communal gatherings, including minyan, shiurim, and in-face meetings whether during the week or on Shabbat!

We do not take these steps lightly, but only after extraordinary deliberation and consultation with many experts, medical and rabbinic.

In the words of Rav Mordechai Willig, שליט"א, it is a greater Kiddush Hashem to do our share to protect the community by davening at home, without a minyan, than davening with a minyan at this time and risk spreading the virus within the community. Even if there are still minyanim within the community at large, Rav Willig felt it was important that we urge our members to daven at home, and not take the risk of communal exposure. For those saying Kaddish, he re-emphasized that the purpose of Kaddish is Kiddush Hashem, and as mentioned above, it is a greater Kiddush Hashem under the circumstances to NOT attend a minyan. This applies to household and backyard minyanim as well. It is simply too great a risk.

We know that our way of life, which encourages us to gather together communally, daily, weekly, on holidays and special occasions, Shabbat meals, etc. means that we are particularly vulnerable to enabling the spread of this virus. This would be a terrible tragedy. We already know with a fair amount of certainty that this is how the virus spread through the Orthodox communities of New York, particularly over Purim. It is vital that we do our share to halt its spread as best we can.

This does not, however, mean that we will cease function as a shul community. It means we will have to find new and creative means, particularly using many virtual tools, to continue to keep connected, learning, and growing. We have already moved the board meeting scheduled for this evening to a Zoom meeting. My weekly shiurim will also move to the Zoom platform, which allows for face to face interaction through computer technology / video conferencing. (The schools in the city, including the Day Schools, which have also shut down, have moved to Zoom for many of their ongoing distance learning plans.)

There are many in our community, however, that do not have regular and easy access to online resources. For them, this period of social distancing is particularly difficult. If you know somebody in that category please call them, say hello, and share among your friends that this individual could use a phone call or a reach-out.

This period of social distancing is all the more difficult for us precisely because we identify so much of who we are with ‘community’. We use phrases like tzibbur, as a reference to the collective of Israel, and a paramount value in Jewish life. We speak often about the negative way we view one who ‘excludes himself from the tzibbur, poresh mi hatzibur’. At the Seder we speak about one who is הוציא עצמו מן הכלל--‘excludes himself from the collective’ as a categorical crime. Yet here we are, closing down the very institutions that define us as a collective and tzibbur with the intent of protecting the very tzibbur from which we are isolating ourselves!!

None the less, it is precisely what this moment calls for. We will remain connected through virtual Divrei Torah and shiurim and teleconference learning. We will remain connected through phone calls and written communication.

To the famous Chafetz Chaim is attributed the message that every modern invention has a mussar/lesson we can learn from , if not in content then in form. For example, he said, from the telegram we learn to count our words. From the train we learn that if we come a minute late we may have missed the opportunities before us.

Perhaps we are realizing now the value of the inventions of modern communications and social media, technology and formats that will enable us to stay connected, and remain spiritually and socially engaged even if we are physically not able to convene the modes of tzibbur that are so crucial to our lives.

May our prayers continue to be heard and answered, and may the רבש"ע remove this מגפה from within our midst.


Rabbi Shulman

Jonty Felsher, President