Statement of the Vaad HaRabbanim of Baltimore
Thursday, March 19, 2020
To the Baltimore Jewish Community,
Given the increased incidence of COVID-19 cases in our community, and the accompanying danger that the virus poses, we have previously directed all Baltimore shuls to close their physical facilities. The very fact that we have made this unprecedented decision should impress upon every member of our community the seriousness of the situation. Daily life cannot proceed as usual and significant lifestyle changes must be made. This is our opportunity to respond as Yidden (Jews) should under such difficult circumstances – with appropriate spiritual and physical responses, grounded in medical and rabbinic direction, and confidence that this approach represents the ratzon Hashem (will of G-d).
The following guidelines should be implemented immediately and until further notice. As this is a matter of sakanas nefashos (risk to life), it is the responsibility of every individual to adhere to these protocols diligently, and it is a grave aveira (sin) to be lenient:
WHAT CANNOT BE DONE AT THIS TIME:
• There should be no minyanim, shiurim, or learning done in any shul facilities, whether indoors or outdoors.
• There should be no private minyanim of any sort.
• There should be no playgroups or babysitting groups.
• There should be no playdates among children.
- Social Distancing
- Do not go out into public, except for essential activities. Only one family member should go to the supermarket, and that individual should be cautious to maintain a healthy distance from others.
- Work should be done from home to whatever degree possible.
- It is against halacha for elderly or immuno-compromised individuals to leave their home.
- It is against halacha for individuals with symptoms of illness to leave their home. A doctor should be consulted in cases of need.
- Anybody coming from a location experiencing sizable outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus (including Israel, NY and NJ) must isolate themselves and practice extreme social distancing for 14 days after arrival here in Baltimore. This includes immediate family members.
- The men’s mikvaos (ritual baths) are no longer available for use.
- Simchos (Celebrations)
- Previously scheduled weddings should only be conducted in close consultation with a Rav, have no more than a minyan of attendees, incorporate proper distancing protocol, and feature no dancing.
- Brisim should be made in the house and attended only by the immediate family living in the home.
- All other simchos should be delayed until a later time.
- Funerals should only be conducted graveside, in close consultation with a Rav, and have no more than a minyan of attendees, each practicing proper distancing protocol.
- Nichum aveilim should be done by phone or video.
WHAT MUST BE DONE AT THIS TIME:
We must feel pain and cry that we have reached this point. It is unprecedented and frightening not to have the shemira (protection) of our shuls and batei medrash (houses of study).
- Tefillah (Prayer)
We must understand that Hashem always hears our tefillos; and therefore:
- Daven (pray) for those who have contracted the COVID-19 virus, and daven that no one else becomes ill.
- Daven 3 times daily with more kavana (concentration/intention) than ever before.
- Say extra Tehillim and add פיטום הקטורת during Shacharis and Mincha.
- At noon every day, stop and say two perakim of Tehillim.
- We must be michazek (strengthen) our Torah study, on our own and by continuing our chavrusas (study partnerships) and shiurim (classes) via phone or videoconferencing.
- Our Rabbanim will be working to make regular shiurim (classes) available remotely. Additionally, the Rabbanim will be working together to increase the overall quantity of learning opportunities for our community.
- Tzedakah (Charity)
- We must contribute tzedakah to the organizations and members of our community even more generously than in the past, and seek to identify and address, direct or report families in need. Many families have already reported a significant loss of income due to the spread of this disease.
- During this time, look out for those who are alone, elderly and without family.
- Chinuch (Parenting)
- We must work hard to ensure that our children do their schoolwork and that we invest everything necessary to make this difficult period one of growth.
- As always, it is critically important for families with internet access to put clear gedarim (safeguards) in place for themselves and their children.
- Emunah and Hishtadlus (Belief & Trust)
- We must work to increase our emunah and bitachon in Hashem, and maintain and exude calm for ourselves and our families during these tumultuous times.
- We must adopt an appropriate safety posture and follow everything written in this letter, as well as all guidelines provided by the CDC and other applicable government agencies.
- Any individual that is instructed to be under isolation or quarantine must follow all applicable guidelines, to avoid endangering themselves and others.
- Seek Professional Help (when appropriate)
- Relief Resources is an organization that provides personalized referrals and support to individuals and families dealing with mental health challenges. During this time of uncertainty, with changes in routine and greater isolation, many may be struggling with anxiety and stress. If anxiety or stress is affecting your ability to properly function, please seek the services of a trained therapist. Remote therapy options via phone or internet are available. Relief can help you learn about available resources. Please call Relief’s confidential line at (410) 448-8356 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our wonderful chesed organizations and many individuals are working feverishly to meet the needs of our community and also provide up-to-the-minute information. Resources for information sharing and other forms of assistance are in development and will be deployed shortly.
If you have any questions about the content or application of these guidelines, please contact your Rav for guidance and clarification.
To reiterate, each member of our community must adopt an appropriate safety posture and follow everything written in this letter, as well as all guidelines provided by the CDC and other applicable government agencies. May we merit Rachamei Shamayim (Heavenly mercy) to return to our shuls and our normal lives in short order.
The Vaad HaRabbanim of Baltimore
**Adapted with permission from a statement of the Chicago Rabbinical Council and Agudath Israel of Illinois.